Formality in the workplace has waned, but don’t let that affect your sense of professionalism, especially when you’re writing something on a digital device. Once you type something on your computer, there is a permanent record of it. Quickly typed emails can be saved and shared. Even deleted documents and posts can be recovered. So you should be cautious of writing mistakes you’re prone to make, and avoid them before they damage your reputation.
Here’s a list of writing errors that can damage your reputation, and what you can do to avoid making them.
Not Writing for the Appropriate Audience
It doesn’t matter what you write or how well you write it if your intended audience doesn’t understand your message. Always consider why you’re writing something before you start typing away. And always consider your intended audience. For instance, if you’re writing a case study for a group of researchers, you’ll want to include a lot of statistics and resources. But if you’re writing marketing copy for a fashion line, you’ll write about clothing quality and trendiness instead of including a lot of statistics.
Always think about your audience before writing anything. If necessary, create an outline for what you’re trying to say to them, with key details highlighted beforehand.
Only Using Male or Female Pronouns
If you don’t want to alienate some of your readers, then don’t exclusively use the pronouns “he” and “his” or “she” and “hers” when the subject of your sentence could be male or female. This mistake could lead a reader to construe the author as being sexist or narrow-minded.
Practice gender-neutral writing to avoid this error. To do this, make sentences plural by using the pronoun “they.” Or use “him or her,” “his or hers,” or alternate between the two throughout the examples you provide in a piece of writing.
Avoid confusing words at all costs. Your readers will be more unforgiving and critical of your professionalism if you confuse the homophones below. They might sound alike, but they all have different meanings.
- affect / effect
- awhile / a while (yes, there is a subtle difference)
- aloud / allowed
- are / our
- bare / bear
- break / brake
- complement / compliment
- except / accept
- forgo / forego
- here / hear
- its / it’s
- than / then
- there / they’re / their
- to / too / two
- your / you’re
Misusing or Excessively Using Punctuation
If you end every sentence in something you write with an exclamation point, your credibility and sincerity will be questioned. No one is ever that excited all the time. Your readers may think you’re yelling at them!!! And if you were to write a sentence with multiple question marks, like, “Did you get this yet???” it might seem as if you’re either incredibly impatient or being condescending.
Use periods or other appropriate punctuation at the end of every sentence and complete thought you write. For instance, write, “I am available at noon. Does that time work for you?”, not “I am available at noon does that work for you.” And if you’re not sure what a semicolon or colon is for, then don’t use them.
Not Capitalizing Words or Spelling Them Out Completely
Even if you’re just sending a text message to your coworker or posting something on social media, you should always spell out every word completely. And capitalize the first letter of words that begin sentences or are proper nouns. Writing something like, “wat do u think” or “i will call l8ter” is unacceptable in all professional contexts. Yes, that even includes social media. Your readers will think you’re being rude or lazy and that you don’t really care about what you’re saying to them if you don’t form complete sentences or if you deliberately misspell words.
Failing to Proofread
It’s perfectly normal to make errors when writing something, especially if it’s only a first draft. It’s unprofessional, however, to leave those errors in your writing when sharing it or publishing it. Be sure to reread everything you write multiple times before hitting “send” or “publish” so that you can catch common typos. If the writing is especially important, make sure to have someone else proofread it for you before you publish or share it.
You should avoid careless writing mistakes and typos at all costs. If you publish or share a piece of writing that’s laden with errors that could have easily been fixed, you’re telling your readers you don’t care enough about what you’re writing. Potential clients will question your business sense and integrity, and your coworkers or boss will begin to question the quality of your work.
If you want your professional reputation to remain intact, take your time when writing, have everything proofread, and avoid the writing errors listed above at all costs.