Every so often, a conversation will crop up in my social media feed about grammar. The person writing the post wants to know how much we all care about it and whether mistakes bother us. Aren’t we all talking more informally now? Does grammar even matter anymore? Here’s what I think.
Your audience matters
When I write my content, I’ll be thinking about you. Not in a weird way, of course. I’ll think about how you balance running a business with everything else in your life and the marketing challenges you might face. It’s the same when I write for my clients. The type of language I use depends on who we’re talking to. It’s not so different to having a conversation when you think about it. A chat with your friends is very different to a meeting with the bank manager.
Think about the kind of person you’re talking to and what image you want to put across. Do you need to be professional but approachable? Could you have a chat with your customers over a cuppa?
Speech vs writing
It can be easy to get the right tone when you’re speaking but writing it down can prove a bit more difficult though. I’ve often advised people to record themselves speaking if they’re struggling to write. The trouble is, they often find that their sentences suddenly look wrong on paper. We start to wonder whether that word is spelt right or if there should be an apostrophe somewhere.
I’ll admit that I’m a grammar pedant. Even if my clients are relaxed about grammar, I want to get it right. Having said that, there are times when bending the rules can make your message more effective because it’s the sort of language your audience would use. At the same time, I’m not going to judge anyone for getting it wrong. I know some highly intelligent and creative people who struggle with grammar and spelling. In the grand scheme of things, it’s more important to get the message across.
When does grammar matter?
There are forms of communication where every comma matters. Legal and financial documents must be precise. They have a language all their own.
It’s important to strike a balance. Say, for example, you’re a financial adviser who wants to start a blog. You need to create the right impression. You’re intelligent, experienced and (most importantly) you know what you’re talking about. However, none of that will matter if your potential customers don’t understand a word you’re saying. Your tone needs to be formal but accessible.
If you’re a mum making baby clothes to sell to other mums, they’ll still want to hear about the quality of the product but your tone can be much more conversational. You’re having a chat with someone who shares your experiences.
Listen to people talk
Conversations are going on all around you. Some involve you, others don’t. If you want to start tailoring your language to your audience, start listening to how people speak. You can start with your customers and the people you meet at networking events but eavesdropping can help too. Think about how the language you hear in a business-focused setting differs from the conversations you overhear in coffee shops or on public transport. Ask yourself whether the person you can hear could be a potential customer. Different groups of people have very different speech patterns and learning about them can help you to write for your audience.
Is grammar important to you? If you want some help writing in a way that speaks your customers’ language, let’s have a chat. Alternatively, use the form below to receive writing and marketing tips straight to your inbox every month. I won’t share your details with anyone else and you can unsubscribe whenever you like.