Style vs. Grammar: Make the Most of Your Content Writer
The whole idea of using a content writer to boost the professional web presence of a company is becoming more and more common. While customers will always want to hear your voice, not everyone is a writer and not everyone is able to produce effective content for the web on a regular basis.
Hiring a painter to come to your home and bring your interior decorating visions to life is nothing new. They have the skills and expertise to get the job done right, and when the job is done, it is still your home that people see and your decorating ideas that are showcased. Content writers perform a similar task: they take your ideas and bring them to life quickly and effectively so you can get the web presence you're looking for.
But, much like painting, there are right ways and wrong ways to get the job done, and there are a host of style choices to be made to get the results you're looking for. All paint jobs must be neat and provide good color-coverage to the entire wall. Every piece of content must be error-free and contain impeccable grammar. But what about the ceiling? Do you paint that white? Which shade of white do you use? What finish should you choose for the wall paint? Eggshell? Flat? Do you like white trim? In glossy? Super glossy?
Your content writer is faced with similar style choices that aren't correct or incorrect; they're simply a matter of preference. Getting the style right means getting your voice right in the piece, but there's no way to know what you want unless you let your writer know. There are standard style guides such as the AP Style Book that was made for news publications and the Chicago Manual of Style that addresses the needs of books, magazines, and journals. Each dictates a number of preferences such as the Oxford comma (or lack thereof), how to handle titles, how to cite sources, preferred spelling, and usage of words, etc.
There are also a number of style preferences when it comes to writing online. In general, a more casual conversational tone is adopted and formalities are skipped. If the sentence sounds right to the reader's ear, then there's a little wiggle room when it comes to sentence structure. Fragments and dangling participles are sometimes OK and the war about sentences that end with a preposition continues to rage on.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that you get what YOU want when it comes to your content on the web. AP Style seems to be the most common choice, but I'm guessing it's because writers from the fast-paced publication world of journalism seem to wander over to online content faster than novelists and magazine writers and they are the ones laying down most of the precedents.
Just remember all of these style choices before you worry that you've hired a writer that doesn't seem to be up to the task. Most of us write for a wide range of industries and in many voices and styles. This doesn't mean that your writer is too busy to learn what you want. On the contrary, it means that your writer is probably trying very hard to wrap their words around your voice and kind guidance is always welcomed.
Speak up, let them know when you don't like something or when you absolutely love something and you'll get more of it. Don't be afraid to break out of the confines of style books and adopt a relaxed tone. The spelling and grammar will still be impeccable so you won't be embarrassed by “bad” writing. Instead, you'll begin to create a unique and recognizable tone that your audience will come to know and get comfortable with.
Don't be afraid to ask your writer for strict adherence to style guides. They're used to that, too. They're professionals after all, and they don't really care whether you want glossy trim, flat walls, and that special chalky white for the ceiling. What they care about is that you get precisely what you want so when they are finished with the piece it is a true reflection of you.