He’s rarely out of the headlines, but Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg’s most recent reason for causing controversy had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with grammar, punctuation and use of language.
On being appointed Leader of the House of Commons, the politician dubbed ‘the honourable member for the 18th century’ wasted no time in making his mark in the form of a set of rules that staff must adhere to in their written work.
- Double space after full stops
- No comma after ‘and’
- All non-titled males to be referred to as Esq.
- Imperial rather than metric measurements should be used
- Banned words and phrases include very, due to, unacceptable, equal, yourself, lot, got, speculate, meet with, ascertain and disappointment
Rules for rules’ sake?
Many of Rees Mogg’s fellow MPs reacted to the new rules with a mixture of mirth and disdain, seeing it as yet another example of this politician’s elitism and determination to remain stuck in the past.
However, although most people agree that sticking to archaic rules and banning words on a whim is unnecessary for any organisation in 2019, Rees Mogg does include one rule everyone can benefit from – ‘CHECK your work’.
Not everyone is a natural writer and we don’t all have a solid grip of where to put an apostrophe or a semi colon. However, we do all have instant access to the internet to check if we’re not sure on a point of grammar or punctuation. Also, a read-through of completed work will nearly always result in minor adjustments and corrections of errors.
A helping hand
If you’re writing a blog for your website or an important email to a client, it’s always worth asking someone else to proof read your work before you upload it or hit send. Alternatively, you can download an app such as Grammarly or Hemingway in order to make sure your work is both grammatically correct and polished. Indeed, Hemingway is named after the famous American author Ernest Hemingway who was known for his clear, direct approach to writing and dislike of adverbs, believing them to be the tool of lazy writers.
For example, if you are writing ‘he walked quickly’, you can ditch the adverb ‘quickly’ and sharpen up your writing by saying ‘he paced’.
These kinds of apps are designed to go beyond simple spell checks with the ability to improve work by highlighting overly long or difficult to read sentences. However, although they can go a long way towards refining your writing, they may not pick up every error or nuance that an experienced human proof reader will spot.
Also, if you do choose to install software of this kind, it’s vital to choose one with the option to use UK-based English.
What’s in a word?
Jacob Rees Mogg’s list of banned words may look bizarre, but when writing in a professional capacity, it’s a good idea to reflect on which type of language will suit the product or service you are selling. For example, a long-established firm of accountants will use a different tone in their written material than a start-up beauty parlour.
When you’re creating a website or other written content for your business or organisation, it’s always good to sit down with colleagues and agree a basic house style to provide consistency and polish in everything that you do.
Things to think about include:
- Does your company refer to itself in the singular or plural?
- Is your use of your name consistent? (i.e. if you are Joe Bloggs & Co. do you use your full title?)
- Is there any technical jargon or corporate speak commonly used internally in your company that could alienate or confuse potential customers?
- How formal or informal should your tone of voice be on your website?
- Do you capitalise every word in headings or just the first word?
- How will you balance the need for SEO optimisation on your website with readability?
Getting the balance right
Clear writing and correct grammar are essential for your professional content. However, as Jacob Rees Mogg has found out, pedantry for its own sake generally isn’t received well by most people. The fact is language changes and evolves; just as BBC presenters no longer speak in the clipped tones of the 1940s, as a general rule, our style of writing has relaxed too.
Quality content creation for your business
Here at the Ideal Marketing Company, we create website content, blogs, direct mail, flyers and more for a wide range of businesses with a diverse set of needs. To find out more about the services we offer, contact 01858 44 55 43 today or email [email protected].
Louise is an experienced and versatile copywriter and content marketer whose passion is bringing any subject to life through the written word. She also thrives on using her imaginative approach to identify and implement exciting PR opportunities for clients. A career spent coming up with creative ideas and content to tight deadlines in consumer magazine journalism, PR and copywriting means Louise doesn’t know the meaning of the term ‘writer’s block!’