TODD SMITH — Writing mistakes, words & phrases to avoid for clearer communications – Mississippi Business Journal


Bad writing can sink your brand and wreck your reputation!

Professional writing coaches from across the country recently shared the biggest mistakes they encounter, and tips on how to avoid them with Fast Company.

Writing inappropriately for the audience is a frequent pitfall, Wilma Davidson, author of the book “Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t,” said. Scolding readers or failing to consider their interests turns them off, she warned. To find tones that resonate, envision readers as real people, suggests Natalie Canavor, a writing consultant and author of “Business Writing for Dummies.”

Taking too long to state the point is another common flaw in business writing. State your purpose at the beginning of the piece and then provide details, Jodi Torpey, a business-writing coach recommends. As a result, even if the reader doesn’t finish what you’ve written, your point still comes across.

Word gaffes also undermine business communication. Using the wrong word can confuse the reader or change the meaning — and often have the audience shaking their head, questioning your intelligence.

Senka Hadzimuratovic, head of communications at the proofreading platform Grammarly, cites commonly misused words such as “than” versus “then,” and “lose” versus “loose.” Proofread aloud to make sure you’re using the right words, she said.

Words to avoid 

Lake Superior State University recently issued its “44th Annual List of Banished Words for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness,” based on nominations and votes the Michigan university received during 2018. These are other great pearls for clarity in writing. Some highlights:

» “Wheelhouse,” meaning an area of expertise. Currie from Ottawa, Ontario, nominated this word for being “Irritating … a cliché” and an “offense to the English language.”

» “Wrap my head around,” meaning to comprehend. Linda of Bloomington, Minn., wants this phrase banished because it’s “impossible to do and makes no sense.”

» “Platform,” as in social media site or other opportunity to express oneself. “People use it as an excuse to rant. Step down from the platform, already,” intoned Michael of Alameda, Callif.

» “Thought leader” – as Matt of Superior, Colo., puts it, “thoughts aren’t ranked or scored.” Paul of Ann Arbor, Mich., says, “If you follow a thought leader, you’re not much of a thinker.”

» “In the books” – as in finished or concluded. Sandy, of White Lake Township, Mich., said “It seems everyone’s holiday party is in the books this year, and it’s all there for friends to view on social media, along with the photos of the happy party attendees.”

» “Collusion”, as in two or more parties limiting competition by deception – John, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., “We all need to collude on getting rid of this word.”

» OTUS family of acronyms such as POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS – David, Kinross, Mich., “Overused useless word for the President, Supreme Court, First Lady.”

» “Ghosting” – Carrie, Caledonia, Mich., said, “somebody doesn’t want to talk with you. Get over it. No need to bring the paranormal into the equation.”

» “Yeet” – as in to vigorously throw or toss. Emily, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., “If I hear one more freshman say “yeet,” I might just yeet myself out a window.”

» “Litigate” – Ronald, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, said “originally meant to take a claim or dispute to a law court … appropriated by politicians and journalists for any matter of controversy in the public sphere.”

» “Grapple” – David, Traverse City, Mich., “People who struggle with ideas and issues now grapple with them. I prefer to grapple with a wrestler or an overgrown tree. ”

» “Eschew” – Mary, Toronto, said “nobody ever actually says this word out loud, they just write it for filler.”

» “Crusty” – Hannah, Campbellsville, Ky., said, “This has become a popular insult. It’s disgusting and sounds weird. Make the madness stop.”

» “Optics” – Bob of Tempe, Ariz., relates “the trendy way to say ‘appearance’.”

» “Legally drunk” – Philip of Auburn, Ind., “You’re a little tipsy, that’s all. That’s legally drunk. People who are ticketed for drunk driving are actually ‘illegally drunk,’ and we should say so.”

» “Importantly” – Constance, Pace, Texas, said, “totally unnecessary when ‘important’ is sufficient. ‘More importantly’ (banned in 1992) apparently sounds more important but is also senseless.”

» “Accoutrements” – Leslie, Scottsdale, Ariz., “Hard to spell, not specific, and anachronistic when ‘accessories’ will do.”

» “Most important election of our time” – José, Ozark, Ark., “Not that we haven’t had six or seven back-to-back most important elections of our time.”

Grounded Mic | Boeing has a big plane problem in wake of Ethiopian Airlines crash

Boeing – the world’s largest plane manufacturer – has a big plane problem.

In wake of the tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157, countries around the world have grounded the Boeing 737 Max, and are drawing comparisons to the Lion Air crash that killed 189 in Indonesia last October

The Federal Aviation Administration identified similarities between the two crashes, leading the agency to ground all Boeing 737 Max planes last week.

In its emergency order, the FAA said new information about the Ethiopian Airlines crash “indicates some similarities” between the two disasters that “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause that needs to be better understood and addressed.”

President Donald Trump ordered the grounding of all Boeing 737 Max planes in the United States, becoming the last country banning such flights after the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash.

U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, that fly Max 8 planes cancelled flights.

The grounding will remain in effect indefinitely, the FAA said, pending the examination of flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines plane were sent to Paris, as France is set to handle the review of them.

The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Max 8 jet plummeted into a field shortly after leaving Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport Sunday, March 10. One of the pilots reported flight control problems and asked to return to the base.

As investigators search for clues as to the cause of the disaster, more aviation authorities and experts are drawing parallels to the Lion Air Boeing Max 8 plane that went down last October over the Java Sea in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.

In its emergency order, the FAA said “new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path, indicates some similarities” with the Lion Air crash.

As the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes are still under investigation, there is no evidence that they had a common cause.

Boeing said it supported the FAA and the Trump administration’s decision. The company also recommended the FAA to temporarily suspend the global operations of all its 371 Max aircraft.

The Spin Cycle will be monitoring the news as the crisis unfolds, and is keenly interested in how the iconic plane builder handles it.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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