Have you ever formed a first impression about someone based on how they write? I suspect we all have. First impressions are powerful and hard to avoid. Even when we want to stay objective, we are sizing up the other person without meaning to. We can make assumptions about a person’s intelligence, education level, professionalism, skill level, trustworthiness, authority, kindness, approachability, and more—much more—based on how they write.

First impressions matter, and, as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, we want our writing to make a good first impression, especially because it affects our credibility.

How? When your writing is vague, unclear, or even confusing or misleading, you lose credibility and you’re seen as less trustworthy and even less capable.

Improve your writing, and the opposite is true: You’re seen as more trustworthy and capable.

An example of a poorly written customer service email
I’m going to show you two examples to make my point. The first is an actual real-life email sent by a customer service representative to a customer (with information changed to protect the guilty):

Thanks for the screenshot of the issue that you are having.

We were sending out notifications about apps expiring that was an error last week so that may of been the issue that you mentioned.

You did install the Tadama Sweetheart?Shall we dance? on the 20th March so when you received the message on 5/5/18 you had one day to use it or it would disappear.So this time it was correct.

Take a minute to read the email and note the errors.

Ready? OK, here’s my take on it: At a glance I see that this is confusing. The apps were expiring? Or the message was an error? The writer wrote “may of” instead of “may have.” This has punctuation errors and even a space missing after the comma before the word “So.”

And here’s the real issue: I don’t trust this customer service person to take my problem seriously. The way they obviously dashed off this email tells me they are in a hurry, not detail-oriented, and probably not all that interested in helping me with my problem. The result? Lack of trust and lack of credibility—for this person and for this brand.

And another example that calls credibility into question…
The second example is from an account executive sent to someone not getting the hoped-for results from a pay-per-click campaign. As before, take a minute to read this and note any issues you see with it:

I noticed that click through rates and ad relevancy can be improved.  So, I suggest testing some new ad copy using the best performing ads a foundation.  As well as slightly raising bids on past converting keywords to improve their ad position on the page to increase invisibility.

I’ve started working on this today.  So, I will be monitoring to see if there is a bump in performance.

This account executive said they would tweak the ads to try to improve the results. That’s all good, but the poorly written email puts their credibility in doubt. The use of “so” two times in such a brief message, the missing word (“as” before “a foundation”), the incomplete sentence (the period after the word “foundation” makes the next sentence incomplete), that they said they would increase “invisibility” when I think they meant visibility…these are all lazy errors.

This person might be really good at their job but I’m doubting it based on their writing skills and lack of attention to detail. (If they are going to increase invisibility, then why buy ads??) And that means they have to generate even better results to win me over and earn my trust.

I hope these two examples prove to you that your writing matters, and that I’ve convinced you to slow down just a little and do a better job–to make a better first impression.

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.