This Monday’s Mistake relates to our new Guide to Punctuation, but also to the ever-important rule to choose clarity! Here’s the sentence:

“The digital front-end (website, app, store, etc.) and the back-end (like customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resources planning (ERP) and billing systems) need to sync with each other.”

Do you see a problem with it? I do: confusion.

Technically, the writer used parentheses correctly, but they lost the clarity. The poor reader has to work to get through this forest of (((s and )))s.

This is a case when clarity needs to take precedence over rules.

Parentheses around acronyms is correct

Putting parentheses around the acronyms is correct when the acronym is used the first time after being spelled out. In this example, both…

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) and
  • Enterprise resources planning (ERP)

…are written out then followed by the acronyms in parentheses. This is correct! Then the acronyms can be used throughout the rest of the document without parentheses.

Then what’s wrong, Sharon?

The problem is that the writer chose to also use parentheses to set off information, when they could have used other punctuation instead.

For example, they could use em dashes instead, but that admittedly looks odd because of the hyphenated words right before the em dashes, like this:

“The digital front-end—meaning the website, app, store, etc.—and the back-end—like customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resources planning (ERP) and billing systems—need to sync with each other.”

Therefore, this is probably a situation when a rewrite would be better as opposed to trying to make this sentence clear with punctuation alone. Here’s my attempt at clarity:

“The digital front-end and back-end need to sync with each other. The front-end includes the website, app and store, and the back-end includes the customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resources planning (ERP) and billing systems.”

In this week’s mistake, the writer wasn’t exactly wrong, but they didn’t put the reader first—and that is wrong.

To learn more, download the new Guide to Punctuation, and get the details right every time you write.

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.