Hi everyone! Brenda from Phydeaux back to continue our conversation about how to improve your chances for acceptance to juried exhibitions and marketplaces. Last time, we talked about photographing your wares. Now we’ll talk engaging the senses using words: your descriptions, profiles and announcements. We’ll start with the mechanics of writing: spelling, grammar and punctuation. Next week, we’ll talk about the essentials to include in your product descriptions and other content.
Chances are, you think you’re a pretty great writer. You earned good grades in English back in the day. You remember “i before e except after c.” You’re pretty sure you know the difference between a colon and a semicolon … and when to use each. You hardly ever misspell words.
How important are the mechanics of writing – spelling, grammar and punctuation – to your online business? I’m going to suggest that the mechanics are extremely important. You never know who’s looking at your online business, but you definitely know that jurors are looking after you apply to an online exhibition. Jurors who want the the best of the best and your online presence, including writing, is part of who you are as a seller.
I usually avoid absolutes, but this one is so easy and so critical, it really is absolute! The first thing every single online seller should do is this: use a spellchecker. Use Microsoft Word to write your content and then use the spellchecker. If you don’t have Word, use Google Documents or Open Office, both of which are free, and use the spellchecker. At a bare minimum, use Firefox for your web browser, which has a built in spellchecker! If you don’t think you need a spellchecker, use a spellchecker. As someone who’s written and edited professionally for years, your brain tricks you into no longer seeing your mistakes. You need tools, second pairs of eyes and tricks to break that cycle.
Ask a friend or relative – one with truly strong writing and editing skills – to critically look at your content. Then be open to the feedback! If that person tells you something that you don’t agree with – look up the grammatical or writing or punctuation rule before you ignore their advice. You may very well learn that you were wrong, and you will both preserve your friendship and learn something new.
I see so many online shops with announcements – the very first thing you see in most venues – filled with typos and misspellings. You want the very first thing that all visitors see to instill sufficient confidence or intrigue that visitors further investigate your shop. You want those visitors to become repeat visitors, buyers, and repeat buyers. You want jurors to continue looking at your shop, rather than close down that window to let you know that you’re not accepted into their exhibition. Misspelled words and typos are correctable – just try to do so before you post that content.
Grammar is a little trickier than spelling. Unless you really remember and understand the correct use of present and past participles (what?), you’re not likely to remember the seeming vagaries of modern English grammar. The good news is that Microsoft Word and other word processing programs include grammar checks. Take the grammar check suggestions with a grain of salt. Not sure if your result is on target or not? Use Google! If you are using Microsoft Word, you can learn more about the grammar finding using “about this sentence.” Try it – you may be amazed.
Punctuation is the bane of existence for many, but is also easy to correct before posting. Not sure if you’re using punctuation correctly? Use an online resource (free!) to analyze your writing (try this one!).
Writing is truly important to your online business, extending to your blog, email and other communications, even shipping labels. You don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity with a magazine, whose editorial assistant may have been turned off by typos and grammatical errors. You don’t want to be turned down by a website for wont of spelling and punctuation. I say this knowing that many folks struggle with dyslexia, making these sorts of tools and resources all the more critical. In our global marketplace, many sellers don’t speak or write English as their first language, which is often met with understanding.
Do what you can to improve your writing by focusing on the fundamentals – the mechanics – which will make the art of writing so much easier!
Share your own experience! Do you find spelling, grammar and punctuation easy? If so, share some of your tips! Is this something you really struggle with? If so, what baffles you the most? You may also contact me privately for some additional resources, if you’re a little reticent to share publicly.
Next week: the art of writing! Painting a picture with words.