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The Write Stuff May 2021 Volume 17 Issue 5

Focus on consistency

I’m a big proponent of using bullet points as a way to succinctly present content — as long as they’re done right. See if you can spot what’s wrong about the following bullets:

To help assist us in making sure this process goes smoothly, please take the following steps:

  • Please keep your back yard/patio gates unlocked during business hours, so we have access to all exterior surfaces (if applicable)
  • Residents with pets are asked to secure their pets if they remain outside.
  • To ensure your privacy, please keep blinds and/or curtains closed during working hours.
  • Field Representatives may use ladders to access balconies which are accessible from the outside of the units.
  • Field Representatives will be identifiable by a blue company shirt and/or high visibility safety vest.

There are a few minor mistakes, including backyard is one word, please doesn’t need to be noted again in the first and third bullets, and representatives shouldn’t be capitalized. More importantly, the copy is inconsistent and should actually be divided into two separate lists, as follows:

To help assist us in making sure this process goes smoothly, please take the following steps:

  • Keep backyard gates unlocked during business hours so we have access to all exterior surfaces (if applicable).
  • Secure any pets that are normally outside.
  • Close blinds and/or curtains during working hours to ensure your privacy.

Please note:

  • Field representatives may use ladders to access balconies.
  • Field representatives will be identifiable by a blue company shirt and/or high-visibility safety vest.

The first three bullets all begin with verbs — keep, secure and close — and the last two have a more appropriate “lead in.” This makes the copy more consistent, and results in better readability.

People versus objects

Despite the fact that most people understand who refers to people and that to objects, who-that mistakes are something I see just about every day.

Wrong: We have people that go the extra mile for clients.
Right: We have people who go the extra mile for clients.

In that same vein, both of the following sentences are correct:

  • We have team members who focus on your satisfaction.
  • We have a team that focuses on your satisfaction.

No politics here

The words capitol and capital are often confused, with good reason. Capitol means a building in which a legislative body meets, i.e., the U.S. Capitol, while capital actually has a number of different meanings:

  • Main city
  • Sum of money
  • Uppercase
  • Main
  • Excellent
Thus, the California State Legislature meets in the State Capitol, located in the state’s capital city of Sacramento. Among the many issues it discusses is making capital improvements and ensuring its coffers have enough capital to fund them.
Published On: May 17th, 2021 / Categories: 2021 /

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