It may not seem like it, but as a real estate professional, you spend a good chunk of time writing for your business every week. From texts, tweets and Facebook posts to letters, emails, listing descriptions and presentations, much of how you communicate with clients and prospects relies on the written word. While you don’t have to be the most skilled wordsmith to be an effective communicator, it will serve you well to follow these basic rules for better business writing.
Relearn the Basics — Spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure all matter in business writing. Not everyone will catch mistakes, but there will always be someone who will find an error, and it could cost you. Sloppy spelling, incorrect word usage or glaring grammar mistakes can make it look like you’re willing to overlook the small stuff and let important details slide. That’s definitely not the impression you want to make on clients and prospects. Luckily, there are a number of online resources that can help when you’re stuck. The website Grammarist is a terrific resource for everything from basic grammar rules to more complex questions, such as correct word usage and tricky punctuation.
Know Your Audience — The first, and most important, rule to consider when writing anything is to know your audience. Broadly, you can assume you’re writing to reach your clients and prospects, but beyond that, it’s helpful to take some additional details into consideration. Knowing some demographic data can help you craft your message more precisely. For example, if you’re writing something to target Baby Boomers, you would choose your words differently than if you were trying to connect with a Millennial audience.
Take Care with Humor — Trying to inject humor into business writing can be tricky. When done well, it can cause your reader to smile and feel a connection with you. Done poorly, however, it can come off as amateurish, flippant and in the worst cases: disrespectful. Much of what makes humor work in conversation: tone of voice, inflection, facial expressions and body language, is missing when someone is reading just the words you use. It’s probably best to save your jokes and witty observations for face-to-face meetings. If you just can’t resist trying humor in your writing, be sure to run it by a quick office ‘focus group’ of several different people in the office to see how it’s perceived.
Be Picky About Proofreading — Running a spellcheck on your document is a good start, but it isn’t enough. Spellcheck catches the basics, but it won’t alert you to things like misused words or run-on sentences. Start with spellcheck, but don’t stop there. Go over your document at least twice; ideally, read it out loud. It will feel a little awkward at first, but it’s a good way to catch words or phrases that will trip up your reader in the same way. For longer documents, you can also try reading from the bottom up. Reading out of sequence is a good way to find mistakes because your brain isn’t anticipating what comes next. If you have an assistant or someone else in the office willing to help, a set of fresh eyes will catch things that you miss. Even if it’s a short piece of writing, like a social media post, it’s important to put it through the same proofreading process.
Go Beyond Buzzwords, Slang and Acronyms — Just as you should take care using humor in your writing, the same goes for popular slang, industry buzzwords and acronyms. Slang can be misinterpreted or come across as careless and too informal. Too much industry insider language and reliance on acronyms can be confusing and make people stop reading. Try to strike a balance by using friendly, easily understandable words that convey a conversational, yet professional tone.
Taking the time and care to construct and review your written communications will pay off. You will reach clients and prospects more effectively and present yourself as an articulate, competent real estate professional who is ready for anything.