When in Doubt, Spell it Out
[An actual text exchange between me and my mother]
Me: What time are you getting here tonight?
Mom: not srue will call u l8r
Me: OK, just let me know if I need to make dinner.
Me: Is chicken OK?
Mom: Yes luv u thx!!!
I’m much more bothered by typos, improper grammar and laziness-inspired acronyms than the everyday reader – a misplaced comma or hyphen where there should be an e-dash is enough to put me in a foul mood for hours, wondering what ever happened to the art of the written word. But the worst part of this poor excuse for a converation? My mother is a former English teacher, the ONE person I thought would always accompany me on my quest to educate the masses on the difference between “it’s” and “its.”
In a world where we’re likely to share our opinions via social media on everything from current political happenings to who got kicked off “The Bachelor,” there are bound to be typos here and there. Who has time to proofread when commenting on how The Jersey Shore cast is tearing up Italy? Whereas personal Facebook posts can afford the occasional typo / made-up acronym / emoticon, it’s best to steer clear of these when creating social media on behalf of a business. Understand who is viewing posts. If it’s mostly tweens, then an “LOL” and an extra exclamation point might not be out of place, but a more traditional business may manage to destroy its hard-earned identity with a well-meaning “TY” to its customers. Content must be conveyed with the right tone. Posts should extend the voice of a business – typos and such do not send the message of professionalism and trustworthiness.
Just because someone knows how to “use Facebook” does not mean you should trust them to write your business’ posts. I recently “unliked” a page because it became obvious that this shop was letting its 15-year-old cashier update its posts in between ringing up customers. (Think, “YAY!!!!!!!!!! Cutest summer yoga tops R here!!!!!!!) Posts like this can make the targeted audience (women aged 30-55) feel old and annoyed. Writing for social media is an art, just like writing magazine articles or ads – getting an interesting, relevant point across in less than 140 characters is something best left to the pros. In addition, keep a consistent voice. And set aside time to do posting. Typing on an iPhone while stopped in traffic and changing radio stations practically ensures typos in your posts.
Social media is an exciting, effective marketing tool – but only when used responsibly. Proper English (or any language, for that matter) is not something that should be allowed to go out of style in favor of acronyms and emoticons that can be easily misinterpreted. Worse yet, it may be a total turnoff. Unless your audience is made up of the youngest consumers (or my mother, apparently), play it safe and put in those few extra keystrokes.
– Trish Salge, Sr. Art Director and Self-Appointed Red Pen Wielder, The S3 Agency