Does grammar matter? Listen to your audience!

GrammarThere are lots of things I love about my work, but ghost writing is enormous fun. Writing for individuals means that I sit at my desk trying to summon up their voice. Blogging for a business often means working with their brand identity to create the right tone.

The type of language I use depends on the audience we’re trying to reach. 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.

Speech vs writing

It’s easy to get the right tone when you’re speaking. After all, hearing impairments aside, we’ve all listened to people talk all our lives. Writing it down can prove a bit more difficult though. The sentences we use in conversation suddenly look wrong on paper. We start to wonder whether that word is spelt right or if there should be an apostrophe somewhere.

None of it matters until we go to school and have to start learning to read and write. Suddenly you’re expected to know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.

I’ll admit that I’m a grammar pedant. I’ve learnt the difference and it’s important to me that I get it right. Then again, it’s important to most of my clients too. They’re relying on me to create the right impression.

However, I’m equally aware that there are people who struggle with these things. Some of the most creative and intelligent people I know are dyslexic. I have friends who just can’t spell to save their lives. I’m never going to look down on someone who’s put an apostrophe in the wrong place. 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 have to be precise. In fact, they have a language all of their own.

The way you communicate is influenced by your audience. Sometimes that means striking 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 of what you’re saying. Your tone needs to be formal but accessible.

Conversely, if you’re a mum making baby clothes to sell to other mums, your approach can be very different. They’ll still want to hear about your level of skill and the quality of the product. However, your tone can be much more conversational. You’re having a chat with someone who shares your experiences. In that situation, being a little more informal with your grammar can make you seem more approachable.

Listen to people talk

There are conversations 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 they speak. I feel as if I’m becoming an ambassador for eavesdropping, but if you hear conversations in coffee shops or on public transport, listen in! Different groups of people have very different speech patterns. It is possible to tune yourself in to a new tone of voice.

Do you tailor your communications to your potential customers? If you need any help, get in touch, or drop me a comment and let me know!Need a writer free guide