Join the Rebel Writers Club – with us!
Jaywalking… touching wet paint… consuming caffeine in the afternoon. These are rules we don’t recommend breaking.
But when it comes to writing, we’re a little more rebellious. And we love nothing more than overriding any obsolete writing rules we learnt in those old school days.
So, here are 11 rules you need to forget to keep your business writing current and compelling:
1. It’s not a man’s world, anymore
So stop writing like it is. If you’re still using ‘he’, ‘him’ and ‘his’ as generic terms to describe people of either sex, you’re writing for the wrong era.
But what’s the right – and relevant – way to solve this conundrum?
Simply pluralise your subject and go with ‘they’, ‘their’ or ‘them’ instead. And if the sentence gets awkward? Restructure it.
Don’t write: A doctor makes a difference in the lives of his patients.
Do write: Doctors make a difference in the lives of their patients.
2. Slay the extra space
Shoelaces, socks and roller skates. Some things are better in twos.
But when it comes to the number of times you hit that space bar after a sentence, one will do.
And no, this is not a new or ‘trendy’ writing practice. In fact, one space instead of two has been the preferred approach since computers replaced typewriters.
Don’t write: This isn’t an Instagram picture. So ditch the double tapping.
Do write: This isn’t an Instagram picture. So ditch the double tapping.
3. Pardon the prepositions
A preposition is a connecting word such as ‘with’, ‘to’, ‘of’, ‘from’ and ‘in’. And if you listened to grumpy Miss Battle-Axe in your Grade 6 English lessons, you’ll know to avoid placing them at the end your sentences.
Or should you?
This advice is news of the past, and a rule you must sometimes break to produce clear business writing (and to stop people thinking that Shakespeare is your copywriter).
We think Winston Churchill said it best with this: ‘ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put.’
Don’t write: Please let us know with which companies you have worked.
Do write: Please let us know which companies you have worked with.
4. Purge the punctuation for our posties
The postal system has modernised, so now it’s your turn.
If you’re still putting full stops and commas in your addresses, it’s time to remove these pesky punctuation marks for good.
After all, finding addresses – let alone writing them – is hard enough already. So keep it simple. And keep out the commas.
Don’t write: 16 Punctuation Drive, GRAMMAR HILL, VIC, 3333
Do write: 16 Punctuation Drive GRAMMAR HILL VIC 3333
5. And do the same with dates
Adding commas to dates is… dated, to say the least.
So how do you write dates in 2018? Write the number, month and year with a space between each and no punctuation.
Don’t write: 4th of May 2018
Do write: 4 May 2018
6. Did you notice the last point started with a conjunction?
Conjunctions are words that connect two clauses or phrases such as ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘for’. Once again, old Miss Battle-Axe would have told you not to start a sentence with one.
But we do. And we do it a lot. See?
Today’s most experienced writers break this rule left, right and centre. That’s because starting with a conjunction is a great way to grab your reader’s attention and emphasise a key point.
Don’t write: We love writing, but not before our morning coffee.
Do write: We love writing. But not before our morning coffee.
7. Describe more, with less
To write persuasively, you should sprinkle emotive, influential, tear-jerking, heartfelt, warm and touching describing words throughout, right?
Sometimes, the simplest sentences can have the most impact. So pick the most powerful adjectives only – or don’t include one at all.
Don’t write: This is a delicious, spectacular, flavoursome and life-changing croissant.
Do write: This is a delicious croissant.
8. You and me are meant to be
In school, we learnt to always say ‘you and I’ instead of ‘you and me’.
But this isn’t always correct.
Instead of following this blanket rule, remove the other person from the sentence and choose the one that makes the most sense.
Don’t write: Hilary will come to the party with you and I.
Do write: Hilary will come to the party with you and me.
9. Talk the talk – in first person
We break this so-called rule every day. And you should too.
The third-person perspective is formal, rigid and impersonal. But when you write in first person, you start talking to your readers – not at them (or about them).
Don’t write: The person reading this matters.
Do write: You matter.
10. Contractions prevent distractions
When you cut two words into one, you’re (you are) creating a contraction. See what we did there?
And contrary to popular belief, it’s perfectly fine to include them in your writing. In fact, contractions can even improve it.
That’s because when you add contractions into your content, you achieve a conversational tone that modern-day readers love.
Don’t write: We do not just care about your brand, we care about your customers too.
Do write: We don’t just care about your brand, we care about your customers too.
11. To keep your readers content – DON’T indent
Blog posts, web articles, emails… even letters now! Nearly all the content you read is NOT indented.
Why? It’s old-fashioned and out of place for today’s digital world.
Instead, embrace the full-block style. It’s modern, sleek and makes scanning easier.
If you want to keep your team’s writing up to date and effective in a world of distracted and disengaged audiences, our business writing training program could be the answer.