Please welcome Vicki Winslow, my first guest writer!

If you have a business, you have to write—and when you write, someone whose good opinion you value will read it. I am here to help make sure that you don’t lose that good opinion through poor writing. Here, then, are two simple steps you can take today to improve your writing and enhance your company’s public image:

  • Use spelling and grammar check. I use Microsoft Word, and the squiggly red lines that indicate misspelled words are lifesavers. Don’t like having grammar check turned on? Neither do I. It’s annoying to see that squiggly green line appear—especially when it shows up beneath a perfectly good sentence. Right now, on my screen, a squiggly green line under the word “I” indicates a grammatical problem in the sentence “Neither do I.” According to the Word Grammar Pixies, “I” should be “me.” That is flat wrong! But keep grammar check turned on anyway, just in case.
  • Never hit “Send” on an email until you’ve read through it carefully. I’ve heard that it is therapeutic to write an angry letter, pouring into it all of one’s pent-up feelings of bitterness. Afterward, one must burn the letter, symbolically releasing the anger and letting it drift away on the wind. The destruction by burning is key; one doesn’t want those negative feelings getting out where they can create misunderstanding and pain. Keep this idea in mind when writing email messages to vendors, clients, and business contacts. Review each message for accuracy and clarity, then make certain that the message is free of snark, petulance, and spite. Even if you’re writing with a light touch, remember that the reader may miss subtle nuances of tone and see the message as sarcastic rather than amusing. Keep email correspondence professional and brief. Because, you see, here is the thing: Ultimately, you have no control over what the recipient does with your email. Assume that every email message you write may be forwarded to dozens of other people. Especially keep this in mind if you are commenting in your message on another person, product, or company.

Now, having averted the minor disaster of a misspelled word and the potentially major disaster of an earth-shattering email faux pas, we can relax and approach our writing from a calmer perspective.

21st-century Writing Tip: Some people write email; others use e-mail. Either spelling is correct. The important thing is to use one version consistently. The same is true of website and Web site (or web site). Pick the version you like and stick to it or risk appearing indecisive.

For free answers to specific questions about grammar or writing, email Vicki at vwinslow59@yahoo.com with “Business Writing” in the subject line.