Archive for March 14th, 2011

March 14, 2011

Don’t let me be misunderstood: 5 simple tips on clear writing for social media

Have you ever misinterpreted somebody’s intentions or tone online? It’s hard to know exactly what people mean when they use emoticons, abbreviations, accronyms, and fluff words. Recently, I came across several posts that left me scratching my head about what the writer meant. After further probing, it turned out that what they meant to say was much more positive and sincere than when it was first read.  I noticed a few similarities in these “misinterpretable” posts and decided to put together a few quick tips to help make sure your message is clear.

1. Avoid easily misunderstood words and phrases. This includes “however, first of all, finally, in the first place, FYI, just so you know, whatever, etc.” You may mean something completely innocent, but the reader may miss your intended tone completely – Just get to the point. These are wasted words in the first place, especially if you only have 140 characters.

2. Use a positive and upbeat tone. Nobody likes a negative person in their lives, and this remains true online. It is exhausting to always listen to somebody complaining about one thing or another and it doesn’t really add to the conversation. If you are ALWAYS negative, your credibility suffers. You can get pegged as a compulsive complainer and be tuned out.

3. DON’T USE ALL CAPS. Spammer alert. Using all caps doesn’t make your message stand out as more important, it makes it stand out as more annoying. I rarely read all caps posts in the first place, and I would never ReTweet them to my audience. Again, credibility can be affected here as it demonstrates a lack of etiquette.

4. Keep it short and sweet. Users don’t read the web, they scan it – so get to the point. If you need to include more information in a longer post, be sure to visually break up the content with formatting variations and multimedia.

5. Should we use emoticons? Short answer, Yes. Long answer, well…I rarely use them in my personal life, and never use them professionally. Professionally, your writing should be well-written and straight-to-the-point to a level that you don’t “need” an emoticon for the reader to get what you are saying. Personally, I have used emoticons in some cases to help ensure I communicate a light or positive tone when communicating with close friends.

Can you add something to this list? Did I leave something out or get it completely wrong? Leave a comment and let me know.

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