“I think spelling is overrated.”
I almost choked on my potato salad after one of my relatives uttered this statement during a game of Scrabble at a recent family event. My wife started laughing as I tried to fight down the food and sort through the myriad of indignant responses fighting for the top spot in my head.
“Aren’t you in law school?”
“Well, that explains your Facebook posts.”
“Yes, because any time you can quickly make yourself look like an idiot in front of co-workers and clients, you’ve got to do it.”
I think I settled on saying something more moderate, but you get the point. Spelling and grammar are two of the most underrated values in American professional life. A lot of very smart people can’t spot a comma splice or tell you the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Grammar is actually one of the ways PR professionals distinguish ourselves and offer value to clients.
If you are a PR pro, spelling and grammar are two of the most basic, fundamental skills sets you need and are absolutely essential to the job. No one would argue with this, but in the day-to-day grind, it’s tough staying on top of every preposition and proper noun in every pitch, post and talking point.
Here are a few tips to keep your sentences from fragmenting and your subjects and verbs from disagreeing:
- Edit Everything: With the variety of outlets PR people produce content for, it’s important to edit everything. That means blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets and even important emails should all get a proofread. Obviously, there tends to more grammar leeway when it comes to crafting a tweet than a press release, but consistent misspellings on a Facebook page or Twitter feed are an easy way to lose credibility for a client.
- The More Eyes, The Merrier: We’ve got a rule at Cookerly: nothing goes live without at least one other person giving it a look. No journalist would run an article without an editor. Publicists should do likewise.
- Print It Out: There’s something about printing out a document and reading it line by line that let’s you catch things you previously missed. Even with content that’s going straight to a website, printing it out and proofreading is a great way to eliminate mistakes.
Good grammar and spelling are a constant battle, but stick to those tips and you’ll make Strunk & White proud. As my relative found out, you’ll also win a lot more Scrabble games.
Plus, it will help you avoid mistakes like these:
Not sure if they’re insulting the kids’ mental or physical abilities, but either way a comma could have helped.
Is Michael Vick applying for this job?
Primary education has failed this person, so maybe they deserve money for higher education.
Whether you are writing a press release or a garage sale sign, never forget the importance of good grammar. As Lynne Truss, the author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, once said, “Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking.”