This National Punctuation Day, don’t fall victim to misplaced commas and unnecessary apostrophes that can result in misunderstandings.
Here are a few simple tips for brushing up on your business writing skills and maximising the effectiveness of your message.
Keep It Simple
Short sentences are best for optimum readability. Aim for 11 to 17 words per sentence and you’ll stand a better chance of being understood. Doing so will also help eliminate the temptation of adding unnecessary punctuation marks.
Choose Commas Wisely
Commas exist to help readers determine meanings and relationships in sentences. While effective for adding pauses before proceeding, they shouldn’t be used every time you may stop to take a breath. Commas are also essential for separating items in lists and when using multiple adjectives. A good rule of thumb when writing is to have someone read your message out loud. If they stumble or struggle to grasp your intent, a comma may be necessary.
Be Selective With Colons
Semicolons should be used sparingly, to separate short, related thoughts of 12 words or less. Highly effective when used under the right circumstances, they are best received by those with higher communication levels and can raise your credibility with readers.
By comparison, colons are used to fulfil promises and make readers pay attention. They are also the correct way to introduce short lists of bullet point statements.
Just Say No!
To exclamation marks. Honestly, there is no place for them in business communication. Just as you wouldn’t write a letter to a client using Comic Sans font, you shouldn’t state that you “really appreciate their business!” or “request a settlement conference next Tuesday!” This Punctuation Day, let’s all pledge to eliminate the exclamation point from professional letters and business documentation.
Avoid Apostrophe Catastrophe
The misuse of apostrophes is so prevalent in our society that their incorrect placement often goes accepted or unnoticed. No matter how many times businesses advertise promotional pricing on “pedicure’s”, however, it’s still not right. The simplest rule to remember is this: apostrophes are used when letters are missing. Contractions like “don’t” and “won’t” require apostrophes because they do not and will not include all the letters from the two complete words they’re joining together.
We could go on forever regarding correct usage of commas and dashes, debating until the wee hours of National Punctuation Day. But with these simple tips, your direct mail outs, client letters and inter-office memos will benefit from a more accurate and professional touch. Best of all, your intended message will be better received.