The Picture on the Dustcover

A very good friend of mine, a history professor, was in town from the west coast and we spent the day in Philadelphia doing the touristy things—The Constitution Center, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross‘s house and the like.

When we were in the gift shop at Independence Hall, we saw a book about the love and legacy of John and Abigail Adams. Tom looked at the book and said there was only one problem with it—the picture on the dustcover was John’s son, John Quincy! As we walked around the shop, we saw many items on display related to the elder Adams, along with the book, that perpetuated the error. I told Tom that since I didn’t have the breadth of knowledge of history that he had (and neither do most folks) I never would have known if he hadn’t been there to point it out. Considering his specialty is U.S. history, I highly respect his expertise. (I guess it really pays to take a history professor along when viewing history!)

What does this have to do with writing, you’re probably asking? Quite a bit.

I read something today that talked about the top 10 errors people make in business writing. Most of the errors are related to spelling—typos, “aural errors” (those sound-alike words weather/whether, there/their, write/right), compound words and contractions. Other errors had to do with prepositions, double negatives, word choice (including slang) and verb form. I’d even go so far as to add these common mistakes to the list: passive voice, lack of agreement, improper punctuation, sentence fragments and lack of transitions.

Most people don’t recognize these errors and often perpetuate them through lack of expertise. Just like the picture of John Adams; I didn’t know what he looked like and wouldn’t have questioned the picture had it not been for the expertise of my companion.

The expertise that a professional writer brings to her clients is often not something easily quantifiable. You can see the value in proper grammar and punctuation, but only if you know the rules in the first place. What you can’t always see easily is the behind-the-scenes value a professional writer can provide for you. A professional writer can bring out the essence of your product, your service, your company by using the right words to convey the exact thought the reader needs at the time he or she needs it. Writing can be persuasive, educational or informative, to name a few.

And when done well, it shows your business—and you—in the best light. It can: create and extend your image; help to save you money or potentially help you stay out of lawsuits; and can help you to win and promote your business, among other things.

Considering the art of writing is so crucial to your business, why take a chance that you could end up to be like John Adams—the wrong picture on the dustcover?

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