Derailed By The Details

A recent report in The Hindu drew attention to glaring typos and other grammatical errors that plagued a piece of legislation proposed by the Indian state of Karnataka. The title of the bill – the Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral traffic offenders, Slum-grabbers and Video or Audio pirates (Amendment) Bill 2014 – is itself quite a mouthful. But it was the content of the legislation and not its unwieldy title which grabbed the headlines – for all the wrong reasons.

The official version of the bill mistakenly refers to “sexual offences in public interest” and “many laundering” (instead of “money laundering”). While the minister responsible for framing the bill was roundly ridiculed by the Opposition party (no surprise there) for allowing the measure to be put forward with such embarrassing errors, the legislation was nonetheless adopted in the Assembly without a discussion.

While in this case the faux pas had no impact on the intended outcome (the bill quickly became a law), the same unfortunately cannot be said of companies’ sales and marketing communications, which are frequently derailed by spelling errors, incorrect grammar, awkward usage and more. Even seemingly small mistakes can be jarring, distracting the reader’s attention and introducing an element of doubt about the company’s professionalism and expertise.

From website content, to press releases, blog posts, social media activity and more, companies must ensure that their content is crisp, well-written and above all, error-free. These guidelines can help you keep your content on the right track:

  • Keep it simple. Some companies find content creation challenging and a bit intimidating, and as a result they overextend themselves in an effort to meet the challenge. Keep in mind that now isn’t the time to go out on a limb by trying out a new word or phrase you haven’t used before, or which you’re not entirely comfortable with yet. Stick with what you know best, and your passion and expertise in your field will shine.  
  • Better safe than sorry. It would be nice if we all had the luxury of developing content at our own pace, but often the world doesn’t work that way. Tight deadlines and late-night scrambles can take a toll on quality. Make sure all your written content is checked and then checked again. Read it, spell-check it, read it again… and then get someone else to read it! Once a mistake is published and seen by a prospective customer, it can’t be unseen. So take the time up front to get it right.
  • Know your limits. In the best scenario, a company has the products, services and expertise to lead in its field, as well as the creativity and written communications skills to convey these qualities to customers and prospects. But the fact is that internal resources may be limited, and writing sometimes takes a back seat. Whether it’s ensuring error-free writing or creating a well-crafted marketing campaign, it’s a smart move to recognize when you need some help getting the job done.

You may not be drafting legislation to combat bootleggers, gamblers and goondas, but in business communications, every word counts. Put these tips into practice to keep your content from taking you off course.