Thursday, October 15, 2009

Would you let this guy write your PR announcements?

Would you let this guy write your PR announcements?

You may have seen this ... quiz ... test ... sociological experiment ... ?


if yuo can raed tihs, you hvae a sgtrane mnid, too. Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.
Allegedly, if you can read the paragraph above, your brain is 50% faster than those who can't. What's the point? That we're resilient? That some of us have greater language skills than others? That word shape matters as much as proper spelling? Who knows?

My question is: What would you think of a client, service provider, admin assistant, or PR person for a networking organization who wrote something like this and sent it out in a professional capacity?

I will admit that, due to my chosen profession as an editor (and, I would add, inherent capacity for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation), I tend to notice more mistakes than the average person - and, I hope, make fewer of them in my own writing. My sister calls me a snob. She thinks that if someone can understand the message, proper spelling and grammar are overrated, and those of us who spend time insisting on such are elitists who have too much time on our hands.

I disagree. I assert that although the Americn IQ is believed to be decliningthe intelligent (i.e., literate?) among us still hold the vast majority of the wealth in our country. Meaning that while you may certainly get somewhere without "book learnin,'" you will likely never make it to the top ... whatever that may look like for your chosen field. Yes, it's true that proper spelling and grammar do not automatically equate with intelligence - but smart people who are poor spellers usually recognize their deficit and do something to compensate for it ... like hiring an editor or proofreader for any documents they will release for public consumption.

Enter this guy. Or at least this is what I picture the guy who wrote the following passage to look like.
Hi Shellie

I am helping with a group of small businesses put on a mixer on october 28th at 5:30pm and it will be at mcduff's 7642 w main street and would like to know if you would like to get a table? they are only $50.00 and a gift to and the money we get goes back to the community because we use it for give aways at the mixer and would like to know if you would like to do that our last mixer we had over 125 come and we are growing . the group is called the best city mixer .com our website is and we started this in july to help all business to grow by putting on mixers in the best city because we notice that no body was doing anything and everything was in the other city so we are trying to do what ever we can for the best city businesses

A client e-mailed this "invitation" to me because she couldn't believe someone would actually send it out. Honestly, would you accept this invitation, no matter how starved you were for a new networking group? (Only the identifying information - in blue bold - has been changed. Otherwise, this reads word for word as it went out ... and presumably was received by his mailing list.) I visited the real Web site he mentioned and, sadly, it appears that the same grammatically challenged individual puts up the Web copy, too. This is not a case of a couple mispelled words or apostrophe's used to denote plurals. This is darn near incomprehensible, it's so poorly written.

Even though we've already agreed that spelling and grammar don't equal intelligence, how does something like this ever go out without someone who's just a little bit literate reading it and making a few changes or suggestions? Whose idea was it to let this guy handle the PR materials? And what kind of image does it give you about the group he's inviting you to join?

Here's what I always tell my students and clients: All other things being equal (price, customer service, creativity, on-time delivery, etc.), the small matter of proper spelling and grammar will set you apart from all the rest. People may not know how to do it well themselves, but they sure do recognize a well-written piece when they see it. No "ain'ts." No "me and hims." No "gonnas" and "gottas" and "gettins." It has appropriate white space - no giant 677-word paragraphs. They spell YOUR name correctly. All these little details go a LONG way toward branding yourself as a true professional, regardless of your business or industry.

You don't have to spend a fortune on editing (although, the best editors do charge appropriately) to make sure your grammar, spelling, and language usage are in order. But if spelling and grammar are not your strongest suit, I urge you to get someone to look over your docs before you send them out. I promise that you'll begin to see a return on your investment almost immediately.
For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design, where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

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