It seems I must have established the reputation of a grammar-Nazi on Facebook and elsewhere because out of the blue, I was informed of today’s celebration of National Grammar Day by Grammarly.com’s PR rep and blogger, Allison VanNest. Her timely email told of Grammarly’s and real estate giant Redfin’s collaboration on a few articles about how good grammar and proper word usage are just as key in helping real estate professionals market properties as the well-taken photographs of the properties they hope to sell.
The lessons taught here, however, are just as important to the average business person or entrepreneur; if you can’t describe your service or products with well-placed, well thought-out, descriptive wording, people will gloss over your listing or ad and move on in a keystroke minute. So I encourage you to pay special attention to how “spell-check” is not always your friend. If you rely on it, be prepared to look just as dumb as if your iPhone’s or iPad’s texting word-assumption function had messed with your messages.
“On the job, professionals with fewer grammar errors tend to achieve higher positions,” says VanNest. “Their writing is demonstrative of the credibility, professionalism and accuracy observable in their work.” She goes on to say that even in one’s personal life, better spelling and grammar can even earn dates with others who appreciate a person who cares enough to articulate well.
As I have written about previously, your words precede you (either badly or well written), but few high-ticket industries are affected by words than the real estate industry: the industry for which I wrote copy and content in great volume when I first began writing for a living. I agree with VanNest that there is a “sweet spot” for the length of any product or service description. Somewhere around 50 words is long enough to articulate something but short enough to keep the average ADHD-like online reader’s attention. “Beyond public opinion, Redfin looked deeper into listings across its platform and found that homes with descriptions of around 50 words are, indeed, more likely to sell within 90 days,” says VanNest. “What’s more, they also tend to sell for higher than list price.”
But do spelling and grammar matter to these same prospects? You bet. Redfin found that as many as 43.4 percent of survey respondents would be much less inclined to tour a home when the listing is fraught with spelling or grammar errors. I had to laugh when reading some of the egregious errors Redfin uncovered when doing its research, where agents describe a property as a real germ, just had received fresh pain and carpet or offered great curve appeal. But even the most commonly made errors can confuse readers, such as the misuse of loose and lose; their, there and they’re; affect and effect and a host of others, the article states.
Pet peeves of mine regarding real estate listing descriptions go well beyond grammar, however, to the real estate agent’s word usage as well. Small kitchens magically become efficient when they are really just – small. A tiny backyard is instantly an intimate and private oasis (which reminds me of the movie American Beauty where Annette Bening’s real estate agent character was chastised by open house lookers for an ugly backyard pool having been described as lagoon-like when it was just an ugly, outdated cement hole in the ground). And what’s with the overuse the words amazing and great at every turn? Are there no other words in the English language that can be substituted? Online thesauruses are easy to use and may mean the difference between a sale and a lost opportunity.
So what do readers truly want when looking at real estate listing descriptions both online and in print fliers? Honesty. No, it doesn’t have to be brutal honesty, such as “property was invaded by vandals before foreclosure”, but it should highlight the property’s good points without overinflating them and play down its detractors without overt mendacity as well.
The bottom line is that real estate agents, like others in business, lose credibility when being cavalier about the grammar and word usage they employ to sell their products or services. All it takes is that first impression and you can kiss a potential prospect goodbye, because you have just established yourself as a person who does not care enough to sound professional – the only reason consumers seek out experts to begin with.
I wish you a happy National Grammar Day. And to those of you who follow me in social media and breathe huge, frustrated sighs whenever I post a Grammarly cartoon or saying, just keep sighing — because I don’t intend to stop trying to elevate the level of writing on the Internet by impressing upon you the importance of high quality communication any time soon. My bad.
A postscript: I have gone back to this post and fixed typos six times so far. Goes to show you that even a professional writer is not immune to errors and often “glosses over” what her eyes don’t want to see. ALWAYS get someone to proof your work!