Online Writing Style Tips

When it comes to letters, people usually know how to write a clean and clear letter. However, when it comes to e-mailing, posting on bulletin boards and communication through instant messengers, many people completely lose it. Call me a stickler, but the way people write really changes the way I think of them and I highly doubt I’m the only one.

A couple of tips for people who want to be taken seriously:

  • Group sentences together in paragraphs. Don’t start a new paragraph for every sentence, don’t slap them all together in one big one.
  • Layout matters. I don’t mean fonts, bold text and the such, I mean spacing between paragraphs. What does the (even plain text) look like visually?
  • Start sentences with a capital letter. That’s the rule in normal writing, why shouldn’t it be any different in online communication?
  • Use punctuation wisely and where appropriate and only where appropriate. I really hate it when people ask questions like this!!!! Why do they do that????????????? Seriously, I hardly ever use an exclamation point and if I do it’s because I’m expressing extreme emotions (Yay!). And question marks, seriously, one is enough. Please don’t hesitate to put commas in long sentences where appropriate, makes it a lot easier to read.
  • Phonetic and 1337-style writing isn’t cool, seriously, it isn’t. If you do it in SMS messages or in teen-chat channels, be my guest. But don’t do it when communication actually has a purpose.
  • When you rewrite a sentence, reread it as a whole. This is a mistake I often make. When you replace a part of a sentence and forget to reread it you can get quite funky sentences.

Spelling and grammar are important of course, be sure your text doesn’t contain errors, in particular in important stuff like Resumes. Personally I’m not a great speller, in particular in Dutch, where there are all kinds of funky rules. I might not be good at spelling in English either, but I can always blame the fact that I’m a non-native speaker.

Thank you.