Even speaking as an editor/proofreader and as The Grammar Guru, I have to say in all honesty that grammatical perfection is overrated. "Always" is, in my estimation, an impossible goal, and usually is inappropriate.
Let me explain.
If you follow me on social media, you know that I constantly urge followers to carefully spell check and proofread their business writing, regardless of the medium. Whether a social media post, blog post, article, or email, you will be judged (right or wrong, like it or not) on how you come across to prospects. You may appear careless or ignorant when neither is true.
And yet your authentic style of communicating may be casual, friendly, and all your own. Using ellipses (...) rather than dashes or commas may be your "thing" and there is nothing wrong with that. Using words and phrases in a way that is authentic to you but not necessarily perfect AP style is just fine. You will reach those people who are drawn to not only what you say, but how you say it. Bottom line: be authentic!
There are basic rules of conduct, however: using their/they're/there correctly, lay vs. lie, proper punctuation and sentence structure, etc. Ignoring these customs is what gets writers in trouble. There's a big difference between stylistic and simply incorrect. "Incorrect" leads to not only judgment, but mis-interpretation of your message.
When you're writing casually for friends and family, as long as your message is clear I can't see why it must be perfect...unless you're even more of a Grammar Guru than I am! But as I've stated so often, in business writing, perfection balanced with authenticity is the way to go.
Wisdom...or a great proofreader...understands the balance!
I assume everyone is familiar with Dr. Dolittle's friend, the Pushmi-pullyu. This magical creature (described as a llama-like) has a head at each end. This is not going to be a zoological discussion of how the creature moves, or eliminates, or other such mysteries; instead, this is a reference to conflicting energies within yourself. Let me explain.
I have had clients over the years who have, with great excitement and determination, hired me for various projects, and then don't follow through for a while (if ever). We set goal dates and processes, and then they seem to disappear. In my experience, this is not due to a lack of motivation, but instead a lack of focus.
One past client had many irons in the fire and chose the one she was most eager to complete. That end of the Pushmi-pullyu was shouting, "Full speed ahead!" Then a different project, or idea, or emergency (the other end of the Pushmi-pullyu) shouted, "NO! Me first!"
The result? Neither end can move!
The solution? It depends. (Don't you hate that answer!)
It depends on several factors:
I believe that understanding your normal delaying habits can help you overcome the push/pull, stop/start dance. Refer to this post by my friend Lisa Crilley Mallis, a time management expert - do you recognize your patterns?
The only way to stop the tug-of-war is to start with even one small change. No more energetic whiplash!
We're bombarded by information. Every day we receive input from emails, news feeds, phone calls, social media, television, texts, postal mail...it's overwhelming. And much of it is noise!
Here's what I mean.
Your brain receives so much data that it picks out items that are most familiar or pleasing to focus upon. The rest is merely noise, static, humming.
So think about this in the context of business communications. Every time you post on social media or send an email, are you adding to the noise or are you being noticed?
When you bombard your social media feed with unrelated posts just to get information out there, you're making noise. When you create a thoughtful, planned campaign of information sharing, you're being noticed by your followers.
When you send an e-blast just because it's on the schedule to do so, you're creating noise. When that e-blast is focused, clear, easy to read, and useful, you're being noticed.
When you write copy for your website just to fill it...yep, more noise. When that copy is refined, focused, authentic, and easily (and quickly) understood, then you're being noticed.
The next time you write something, review it with fresh eyes. Are you using more words than are necessary? Make your point concisely. Are you writing in a style that's authentic to you and your clients? Be YOU, not who you're told to be by others. Is your writing correct? Get some help from an objective third party so you don't turn off your readers.
Want some help?
One of my main services for clients is to help write copy that is accurate, authentic and aligned with the client's core values. How do I determine those things? Well, it's part intuition and part conversation!
You see, when I have an initial conversation with a potential client, I pay attention to what they say, how they say it, and how I feel as I hear it. There is great power behind words.
Does she use spiritual jargon because it's what seems appropriate, or because it's how she naturally speaks from her heart?
Does he speak quickly and precisely, or slowly and thoughtfully?
Is he a true professional, expert in his offerings to clients?
Does she say what she thinks others want to hear or what her heart wants to say?
These questions and more come into play when I work with someone.
Years ago I got advice from a coach who strongly suggested I change my message to reach a broader audience, and stop calling myself a "spiritual" VA. I tried that for a short while. A very short while. Why? Because she wanted me to stop being ME! I AM a spiritual virtual assistant, I DO want to work with a core group of expert heart-based practitioners. I AM AUTHENTIC!
If you want a client to trust you, BE you! Don't be like the other kids on the block. Create your offerings based on what you love to do the most, what you do the best (and those two are usually the same), and what will serve those you want to serve.
I'm not advising you to ignore what works in marketing and copy writing; data shows what works and what doesn't. But you can still present an authentic persona while doing what works...for YOU!
Many of us collaborate at times with our business associates, whether for a class, a fair or expo...any sort of team effort. Communication is critical to the success of these events, so how can you best support each other?
First step: role assignment! Be sure that each team member understands his or her role in the project, what tasks they're assigned, the timeline and due dates, and how, to whom, and when they are to report results. Tip: consider not just the tasks for each member, but in what areas they need to be a decision maker, or be informed, or be left out of a conversation.
Second step: shared files! We've all experienced the trauma (ok, maybe not trauma, but certainly stress!) of sharing documents by email. It's so easy to lose track of what changes have been made, and by whom. Instead, use a virtual "file cabinet" like Google Drive or Dropbox to store items every team member will need.
Set up project folders with explicit titles so that anyone on the team can easily find what they're looking for. Within those folders, store anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that a team member might need. You might want a folder for images, one for applications, one for setup or venue - consider the aspects of your particular project that make the most sense to organize the folders.
When changes are made to a file, ensure that it's saved back into the same folder so you don't end up with multiple versions of the same document - something I see often! You may want to have team member save items they have edited as "V1 date, V2 date," so it's easy to tell at a glance what the most recent update is, and yet you will still be able to recover previous versions if something goes wrong. AND, as I said, you won't have ten of the same file saved! Tip: be sure to include the date in the file name.
Whenever I manage a project I like to outline everything up front in a team meeting, so everyone is "on the same page" about timelines, roles, and how communication will be handled. Be sure to have regular meetings with subsets of the team sharing the same roles. Set expectations up front so there are no surprises!
"I just had a baby looking for a job to work at home anybody let me I have great Information technology and networking skills."
This request came from a social media post I ran across. Granted it's social media, this young woman was requesting job leads, and yet her post was so poorly written I can't imagine she got many leads from it.
You never know where your words will go, or who might see and react to them. Especially in the energy / focus of employment, writing must be clear, precise, and error-free to present a professional appearance to any prospective employer. Regardless of the kind of position sought, your writing style gives the first impression of your intelligence, work ethic, and motivation.
You may be tempted to dismiss this thought as trivial, but think about it objectively. Let's say that someone who read this request copied it verbatim and sent it to someone who needed those services. That person will be reviewing many similar requests and resumes. and will evaluate next steps based on first impressions. The first impression of this writer is not professional.
The same applies to prospecting for new clients in your business. You want to help more people by having them hire you. What then is your first impression on others? Do your social media and blog posts appear professional? Do they clearly share the teaching and message you want to convey? Are they error-free?
I've had a few rebuttals when I share these ideas from people stating that skills and intent should be what matter. Perhaps, yes...however if your first impression creates a block in that path, then it's time to change!
(I know a great proofreader!)
Because I learn visually and kinesthetically, typing is an idea method for me to communicate my ideas. I prefer email to phone, and writing to speaking.
But if you communicate more clearly with hearing and speaking, until recently it's been more of a challenge to get your ideas out to your prospects and clients in the digital world. Now you have options!
The newest versions of Microsoft Word have a dictation function which works well. Apple also has free dictation software for mobile and computer, as does Google Docs. These are all free options, and as often happens with free, the quality is not quite as good as paid products like Dragon Naturally Speaking. But the increase in productivity may be worth the small error rate - as long as you proofread carefully (or hire someone to do so)!
Of course, the quality of your microphone has an impact on accuracy, as well as your tone and clarity of speech.
Time! It takes far less time to speak words than to type them.
Ability to multi-task: (Not always an advantage!) You can be doing laundry while dictating a blog post!
The ability to brain-dump: Get all your ideas out in real time, in stream of consciousness, with little internal editing. Do the cleanup later!
Disjointed thoughts: When typing, you can adjust your content for cohesiveness and clarity. Stream-of-consciousness dictation may make it hard to decipher your original intention when you go back to edit.
Awkward pauses: If have a temporary brain freeze, it may be hard to recapture your thoughts and get back on track.
You could, of course, simply record your thoughts and have them transcribed (or do it yourself), however this is so old-school and inefficient I don't recommend it.
The next time you need to write content, test these options for yourself. You'll find the best medium for efficiency and ease!
That may not be your first question. That's likely to be, "What the heck is BPT?" Let me explain.
Biological Prime Time (BPT) is a phrase coined by author Sam Carpenter to describe that magical time of day when you're most able to tackle brain-intensive tasks. It has little to do with whether you are most alert in the morning or evening, and more to do with which part of your brain is most capable of exertion during what time of day.
Knowing your BPT gives you a good start to accomplishing those challenging tasks at the optimal time for you.
For instance, I can be productive on both detailed and creative tasks about equally, however at different times of day. If I need to be very focused, I will take care of the task first thing in my work day, when I'm most alert and capable of detailed thinking. When I need to be creative and just let ideas flow, I work on these tasks in the early afternoon. By mid-afternoon my brain says, "Nope, no more!" and so I move on to more brainless things like filing or the next day's to-do list.
I recently got bogged down with several urgencies at the same time and stepped out of these ideal times for the work - not a good plan. Things went awry!
My client Lisa Crilley Mallis of Impactive Strategies explains this here, with some great ideas of how to track and take advantage of your best times.
Remember that you cannot force this BPT into the most convenient time for you. It is what it is, regulated by your brain. When you honor it and schedule accordingly, you'll not only be more productive, but also happier!
On my Grammar Guru Facebook page, I love to poke fun at examples of really poor grammar and writing. Some are funny cartoons, and others are - unfortunately - examples of really bad writing in the public eye.
And that's where good grammar is REALLY important - in the public eye! Here's why.
1. No matter what you do or how you do it, you need to present a professional, educated image to your prospects and clients. When your blog or social media post is full of mis-spellings or missing punctuation, you appear to others to be either careless or ignorant - neither of which, of course, is good for business! Neither may be true, but you wouldn't want a prospect to believe you are careless based on your online presence. ESPECIALLY in this holistic, heart-based game we're all in, you want your clients and prospects to trust in your skills, your intention, and your ability to fulfill your promises.
2. When you write poorly, your meaning can be lost. I have read items with little (or mistaken) punctuation, and found myself wondering what the writer was trying to convey. Or articles in which an incorrect word with different meaning was mistakenly used for the correct word. If your meaning is not clear, your reader will quickly give up and move on, and will judge that you are not as capable as you really are.
Don't dismiss proper writing etiquette as unimportant. Use spellcheckers, Grammerly and other apps, and proofreaders. Want a great referral? ME!
Whether you work at home or outside the home, dealing with distractions and interruptions is a given. But how often do you allow yourself to take a break?
A break in your work can be viewed as an interruption or distraction, but it's the intent that matters. If you catch yourself frequently checking social media or personal email, or if you get antsy and leave your work space often, you are distracted and not paying attention to your personal needs - these are not "break" actions. They are procrastination!
Instead, intend to refresh yourself, body, mind and spirit, so that you have more energy (and lighter energy) to continue having a productive work day.
I have often been guilty of ignoring my body when I'm busy. I'm in my home office, working on my computer, concentrating - while at the same time sitting stiffly, breathing shallowly. On some days I feel terribly hyperactive, restlessly looking out the window, or twitching my feet. I have learned to notice those messages my body is sending me, and I do something about them!
Check in with your body and notice what it needs - water? Deep breathing? Resting your eyes? Movement? Then fill the need. Take a 2-minute walk (outside if you can). Drink eight ounces of water. Have a small, light, healthy snack. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Stretch and move your body - get the blood flowing!
I know that when I take even two minutes to do one (or all) of the above, my mind is fresh, my body is loosened, and my spirit feels lighter. And my productivity goes through the roof!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.