Have you ever mailed out a résumé with the hopes of finding employment? Have you written an article or a blog, and do you have a website with the anticipation of gaining personal or business exposure? Do you send out business letters, emails, or promotions?
Not all first impressions are created from a visual interpretation. It may very well be that your writing style will act as a looking glass through which your readers will create their opinions of you. If the communication has errors in grammar, punctuation, or lacks clarity and cohesiveness, your chances of being heard will either be diminished or be practically nonexistent. This negative response from your audience is thus counterproductive to your motivations for writing. As a result, you may not be selected as a candidate for employment interviews, you will lose the possibility of new clients, and you may not be perceived as a professional within your stated area of expertise. Are these the consequences you are seeking?
It would be rare if we were to remember the vast quantity of English rules and guidelines that our teachers so patiently tried to infuse into our knowledge base during our student years. Commas, for instance, have provided much frustration to both writers and editors. The following is a suggested list of reference books that will provide guidelines and answers as you prepare your text. These resources will help you create a document that maintains your readers’ attention on your intended message and expertise.
· The Chicago Manual of Style is a style manual widely used by publishers, authors, and editors. Taking into account the pervasiveness of the internet in society, the manual has a significant amount of information on preparing manuscripts for electronic publishing. It also offers guidance for citing electronic books, articles in e-journals, electronic editions of older works, and online newspapers and magazines. The manual provides guidance to authors working in other forms and media such as journals, newsletters, websites, and American Sign Language. The Chicago Manual of Style is also available online.
· Words into Type is another reference guide that is very popular and is viewed as being easier to understand than The Chicago Manual of Style. This book is a resource for manuscript guidelines, copyediting, style, grammar, and usage.
· A grammar usage guide, such as The Elements of Grammar by Margaret D. Shertzer.
· A thesaurus will provide word variety and interest to your written work—it is best not to repeatedly use the same word when there is another term available that provides the same meaning and adds impact to your message. Although word processing programs provide a thesaurus feature, the synonyms suggested are limited. You can purchase a thesaurus either in book or CD-ROM format. An online thesaurus is another option, such as Thesaurus.com.
· An updated dictionary is essential—do not rely solely on your word processing spell check feature. Word usage changes from year to year; a dictionary that is relevant will provide preferences regarding spelling, hyphenation, and plurals. A good dictionary will also provide supplemental information, such as translation of foreign words and phrases used in English, geographical information for certain regions, and spelled-out forms of common acronyms. An online dictionary that you may find beneficial is Your Dictionary.
As I was completing this article, I ran across a comment made in a forum concerning a writer’s grammar and writing style. The contributor to the forum had received an email from a business in which the representative was trying to promote a service. The email contained “cuz” for “because,” and “u r” for “you are.” Can you guess the reader’s response to this business promotion?
We do not have the luxury of receiving a second chance on a first impression. Keep in mind that the judgments your readers will make about you through your writing may be the one and only opportunity you are given to convince your audience of your professionalism, knowledge, and expertise.