How the Written Word Can Make or Break Your Business Image

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It happens pretty much every day. I am reading the newspaper, a website, business brochure or some other written material, and it jumps out at me like a little flashing neon sign. Everything around me becomes a blur as my eyes become fixated on that one little trace of black on white: a typo.

Granted, as a writer I am probably more prone to notice this than some folks are, but the ugly truth is that our written words can have a serious impact on the public perception of our business.

With the advent of do-it-yourself software, anyone can now try their hand at everything from photo-editing to desktop publishing to movie-making. What used to be delegated to professionals is now handled in-house as entrepreneurs worldwide can now take on the additional roles of writer, editor, publisher, web designer, director, producer and the list goes on.

The only problem with this is that putting a hammer in someone’s hand does not make him a master carpenter. Misspelled words and misused punctuation and grammar are among the most common errors many business owners make in writing and editing their own marketing materials. Other mistakes include incomplete thoughts or sentences, improper capitalization and ideas that do not flow well from one to the next.

While I have noticed such errors in almost every written format there is, nothing to me is more tragic than when I see a mistake on a sign in front of a small business. This tells me two things:

  1.     The owner was not careful enough to make sure the word was spelled correctly when he/she ordered the sign, and
  2.     The sign maker either did not notice the error or did not bother to alert the business owner of the mistake.

Signage does not come cheap, and once it’s done, it’s done. You can’t take it back and have it re-made. It is what it is, and there your spelling or punctuation error is in front of your business, in full view of God and everybody.

As a fellow small-business owner, I know full well that most of us don’t have extra cash lying around to pay for signs and marketing materials we cannot use. With this in mind, I am not afraid to bring errors to the attention of my customers when I spot them. Yes, there is a risk they might be mildly offended or embarrassed, but this is a chance I am willing to take to save them a larger embarrassment later on. So far, I have never received anything other than thanks for calling their attention to a boo-boo so it can be corrected. It’s like the minor momentary embarrassment you face when someone discreetly tells you that you have something in your teeth or your shirt on wrong-side out or are wearing two different shoes. It pales in comparison to discovering the goof yourself at the end of the day and realizing you’ve been walking around like that all day. Ask me how I know.

So here is my recommendation: If you, like I, are a do-it-yourselfer and for whatever reason are more comfortable writing your own marketing and other written business materials, do yourself a favor and find someone you can trust to edit it before you go public with it. Whether you hire someone (it costs less than you might think) or you have a friend who just has a knack for the art of writing, get it edited!

The bottom line is this: written material that does not read well gives your customer (or potential customer) an impression of you and your business that is less than favorable. As entrepreneurs, we have to be smart enough to surround ourselves with people who have the skills and abilities that we lack. As much as we hate to admit it, we really can’t do it all, and we need each other. If writing isn’t your thing, have someone on your team whose thing it is. You’ll be glad you did.