Want to write professionally? About your area of expertise perhaps? Something related to work? Maybe your résumé even?
Then get your mechanics right!!! Mechanics are grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary.
Regardless of your area of expertise, savvy, knowledge, or insight, if you have bad mechanics, you come across as a doofus! Yes, bad punctuation in a paper about magneto-hydrodynamics, or an article about migraine headaches, or a document outlining your job history and skills; these all give the lie to your ability to know what you’re talking (writing) about.
Here are some examples from a webpage that described some articles whose headlines sounded interesting. I won’t embarrass the writer by identifying the site. I’ll identify the errors even though you probably can see them yourselves.
- Thirty eight million people or more suffer from migraine headaches in America, according to Mirgraine.com. [Hyphenate: Thirty–eight; and they misspelled migraine.com]
- This 3000 years-old secret to preserving food without refrigeration was invented by the ancient Egyptians. [3000 year-old secret. Adjectives don’t show number]
- EMPs are bursts of electromagnetic energy which can disrupt or seriously damage electronic equipment. [Should be “…energy that can disrupt…”
- People with dementia show a different makeup in the bacteria dwelling in their guts, a preliminary study finds — raising questions about whether the “bugs” play some role in the brain disease. [Use a dash, not two hyphens. We’re out of the age of typewriters. It should be “…finds—raising…”]
Some of these are sixth-grade mistakes, and all of them are things a professional should know. If you doubt your ability with mechanics, get someone to proofread your work. Don’t look like a doofus!
This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.