When you proofread for a living, as I do, you notice linguistic and grammatical faux pas instinctively. However, we are all influenced by the language in our lives more than we think.
From fellow commuters on the train reading a newspaper, book, or smartphone, to you sitting at your desk reading emails, language is all around us.
How much time and effort have you invested in making language work for your company? Are those clever slogans and taglines really serving their purpose?
“Going the extra mile” is all well and good if you find your Sat Nav has miscalculated the distance to your destination, but linguistically it’s a classic cliché.
Read more: The emails you send at work could betray you
If one prospective job candidate claims to “always give 110 per cent” and another claims they “always strive to fulfil their potential”, who is an employer going to favour – the hyperbole-loving candidate with an untenable grasp of logic or the modest, yet determined, realist?
Moreover, as with anything, business speaks its own language, comprising terminology that, naturally, has evolved to become colloquial, a lot of which crops up in the meeting notes I proofread, such as “plain vanilla” stocks or “lion’s share” of assets.
Also common are abbreviations such as CRM, B2B, D2C, KYC, etc, all of which have created a “business jargon”. This, of course, breeds informality between co-workers, which can be a hard habit to break. If you are in the business of sales, beware of this. Your choice of language determines who is willing to part with their money for your gain.
If you are too informal, you risk sounding unprofessional; yet trying to sound too formal and getting it wrong is a danger in itself. As one insurance company advertised, PPI that was “possibly mis-sold to you and I” is waiting to be claimed. Pronoun misuse is a common error, amongst others such as incorrect use of apostrophes (“Great taste deserves it’s own reward”).
When you are pitching your product, or even yourself, to a mass audience, the key to your success is the impression you make, and not just in presence and command of said audience.
We should all be proofreaders. After all, who can forget the bloopers made by all the political parties in their campaign propaganda last May? There were “guarantrees” being offered to improve the ”ecconomy”, but at the heart of every campaign was a strong sense of “comminity”.
Amusing though this may be, it is an example of just how powerful language is. Any of these errors could have cost parties votes. Don’t hand other businesses your business. Make them work for it!