When we’re in school, writing is all about following the rules. Well-meaning English teachers teach us inflexible guidelines for formal essay-writing—and we dutifully follow them.
But what if I told you that many of those “rules” were actually myths that destroy good business writing?
Throughout my career working with entrepreneurs, I’ve found that most of them follow the same four writing myths from high school English class. It’s time to unlearn these destructive rules that prevent your business content from connecting with your target customers.
Read on to discover the four common myths that are ruining your content:
Myth #1: Contractions are bad.
A contraction is two words made shorter by placing an apostrophe where letters have been omitted. (For example, I am becomes I’m, or it is becomes it’s.) The truth is that contractions, while usually not suitable for formal essays or academic papers, are essential components of good business writing.
When you avoid contractions altogether, you begin to sound a bit like a British aristocrat from the 1800s. (I’m pretty confident that’s not what you’re going for.) Spelling out common phrases such as do not, will not, and cannot drapes your content in a cloak of formality that detracts from your writing.
The key is to write well, but also to write as you naturally speak. Instead of writing it is, write it’s; instead of I am, write I’m. It will be a watershed moment for you when you realize that informal writing is a strength, not a weakness.
Myth #2: Prepositions can’t end a sentence.
As a quick refresher, prepositions are words used to describe the relationship between other words in a sentence. For example, in, for, of, after, before, between, and on are all common prepositions we write every day. But prepositions are scoffed at when they try to end sentences, called “awkward” and “clumsy,” and often mistakenly referred to as “bad grammar.”
Consider this sentence: Readers respond better to writing they can relate to. Almost everyone would agree with the meaning of this sentence, but many people would contest the way I wrote it. My choice to end the sentence with to, a preposition, would make any high school English teacher cringe—but there’s no good reason why. Ending sentences with prepositions is proper English, and far more effective than writing stuffy, convoluted sentences like, “Readers respond better to writing to which they can relate.”
No one speaks like that. Why should you write like that?
Myth #3: Conjunctions can’t start a sentence.
Conjunctions are words used to connect clauses and sentences, or to coordinate words in the same clause. (Common examples include and, but, if, or so.) Conjunctions are like the sad cousins of prepositions: They’re given a bad rap by high school English teachers, too. We were all taught never to start sentences with conjunctions.
In reality, conjunctions are perfectly suitable sentence-starters that can add flair and friendliness to your content. And that’s the truth. So there’s no need to worry about committing a grammar faux pas when you start sentences with conjunctions.
Myth #4: Exclamation points are for shouting.
The vast majority of people equate exclamation points with shouting. It’s time for you to stop being one of them. Exclamation points are a valuable addition to your arsenal of business writing tools, if you use them thoughtfully.
They can indicate surprise, urgency, emphasis, apology, agreement, call to action, and even sarcasm. None of these are inherently loud or boisterous notions. Don’t be afraid to use occasional exclamation points to add a boost of much-needed energy to an otherwise lackluster sentence.
Which of these four writing myths do you need to unlearn? Share below in the comments!