(This business writing post was originally published June 2017) Have you ever hit Send only to find out later you had an egregious error in your message?

I’m guessing yes, because it has happened to us all. We’re typing fast and probably thinking about the next task while trying to finish this one and boom, next thing you know, we’ve sent a messy message that implies we’re lazy and too busy to proofread. Dang!

An Ounce of Prevention or a Pound of Cure?
Whether you’re writing a quick Snapchat to a colleague, a longer email to a customer, or an even longer paper for a project, this one simple trick will help you quickly find any errors and write a better message: Read it out loud.

Yes, just read it out loud. You’ll find where you wrote “of” instead of “have,” the words you’ve left out and the extra words you included. You’ll hear where you’re not making sense and need to clarify, as well as where you’re repeating yourself…and more.

Don’t believe me? Read this quickly and silently:

Now read it out loud. Did you notice a difference in what it said? I hope you noticed it says “the” twice! Most people won’t see that at first glance. They’ll only see the second “the” if they read it out loud. That’s because reading it out loud forces you to focus on every word individually, as opposed to trusting our lazy eyes that tend to fill in blanks and gloss over errors.

“…reading it out loud forces you to focus on every word individually…”

Will this add to the time you’re spending on your writing task? Yes, although the shorter your message, the less time it will take. And isn’t investing a few seconds or minutes of time worth it if it saves you from embarrassment and helps you get your message across the first time?

In fact, this is so important, let’s reiterate. Reading your business writing out loud before sending means you will catch your mistakes, and that means you will:

  1. Save yourself from embarrassment.
  2. Get your message across the first time.

“…you’ll start to notice the mistakes you make most often…”

Wait! There’s more!
Here’s another added bonus: You’ll hone your writing skills if you do this one trick repeatedly, because you’ll start to notice the mistakes you make most often which means you’ll be aware of them and able to avoid them later…before you even read out loud!

Get in to this one simple habit and you will dramatically improve your business writing skills. Guaranteed.


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.