The Lost Art of Good Writing...Thanks to Digital
In our fast-paced, digital society, writing and communication as we know them have changed. In-person conversations are becoming rarer, as we all turn to platforms and devices to communicate with each other. Think about all of the times you’ve sent emails to co-workers with a quick question or clarification, instead of just walking to their offices and asking them face-to-face. We’re connecting with others easier and faster than we ever have, and increasingly these conversations are taking place in written form.
And as the format of our conversations has shifted, so has our writing. As we follow up on an email or reply to a friend’s text, we’re not always thinking about whether our messages reflect correct grammar. Sometimes we don’t even have to think about it, with technologies like autocorrect stepping in to ensure we’re using the correct form of “its” or “it’s.”
We’re connecting more frequently and casually than we ever have, but at what expense? Does it really matter if you text your friend “how r u” instead of “How are you?” Or if we end a sentence on a preposition while making dinner plans via Google Hangouts?
As we increasingly communicate via written mediums, I would argue that grammar has never been more important. In a lot of instances, your only communication with another person is over text or email, and many forms of written communication are permanent. Emails are forwarded, social posts are shared and there’s no way of fully predicting who will end up seeing your writing. This will influence someone’s perception of you -- for better or for worse -- in numerous ways: your intelligence and mood, just to name a couple.
At the same time that communication is becoming more rapid and casual, perceptions are changing. As noted by the Oxford Royale Academy, new dialects are being created as abbreviations make their way into our everyday language. Beyond “LOL” and “BRB,” aspects of written conversations are being replaced with emojis and gifs.
Further, Emmy Favilla, former BuzzFeed global copy chief, has written about how the period has become a “loaded punctuation mark.” A form of punctuation that has been used for hundreds of years, is now being perceived as a negative in our digital age. Instead of using a period to break up sentences in your text, you just send two iMessages instead of one. The changing definition and understanding of this punctuation mark now has the potential to unintentionally convey how you’re feeling, whether or not you actually feel that way.
As communicators, quality writing is and always will be paramount. Regardless of new advancements in technology, like new smart home devices that can transcribe messages based on your dictation, the ability to clearly communicate via written mediums is crucial. Everyday, we’re tasked with developing strategies and tactics that communicate with our target audiences and drive people to take action, whether we’re trying to sell tickets for an event or raise awareness around a key issue. Strong writing is a critical component for ensuring your campaigns and messages are effective as possible and drive people to act.
At the most basic level, quality writing comes down to using correct grammar and spelling. No matter how compelling your story is, your message will not resonate as strongly as it could if the writing is anything less than impeccable.
If you aren’t flexing these writing skills on a daily basis, it will be harder to remember and use the correct forms when it matters, like in a client presentation or when you’re emailing a new business prospect. And who wants to be rejected by a potential client or lose out on a promotion because your email is riddled with typos and incorrect grammar?
Luckily, in our digital world, there are numerous tools and tricks that can help us out in our writing and ensure the content we’re creating follows conventional grammar rules. Of course there’s the autocorrect feature that’s installed on nearly all devices, but it still makes mistakes. Grammarly is a Google Chrome plug-in that scans your writing, whether it’s an email, a LinkedIn post or any other web-based writing, and lets you know when something doesn’t look right. Another useful writing app is Hemingway, which reviews your writing for clarity, readability and passive voice.
So take the extra minute to proofread your writing, regardless of whether you’re sending a text or drafting a full strategy memo, and always have your trusty AP Stylebook nearby for questions. Knowing your audience and taking a second to slow down and check your grammar will ensure that your messages are interpreted in the way you intended. Humans are innately social creatures, so even if it’s gotten pithier and more casual in recent years, written communication isn’t going away anytime soon.
Read more about why strong writing is crucial for your marketing and communications strategy.
Cate’s love of writing and public affairs makes her the ideal public relations professional. She finds a message's ability to persuade change particularly fascinating. A recent graduate of American University, Cate enthusiastically puts her degree in public relations and strategic communications to work!