Maintaining consistency is a must in your business writing

One of the most common errors I encounter when editing others’ business writing is consistency. Maintaining consistency in your writing is easy to do, but only if you keep it top of mind.

Here are a few examples:

“We must complete this project by noon,” said Lenny Jones. “The entire organization is depending on us,” Lenny said.

“That’s right,” says Jolene Smith. “We don’t have a choice,” Smith adds.

The above two sentences are inconsistent in terms of tense. The first sentence is in the past tense (“said”). The second sentence is present tense (“says” and “adds”).

You need to decide if you will write your piece in the past or present tense. Once you make that decision, stick with it throughout the entire text.

The above two sentences are also inconsistent in terms of identifying the speaker. In the first sentence, we use the speaker’s full name in the first reference but then only his first name after that.

In the second sentence, we also identify the speaker by her full name in the first reference, but then only by her last name after that. That’s inconsistent.

You need to decide how you will identify the people you’re quoting. Some organizations prefer using the first name after the first reference. It’s a more reader friendly approach. Some prefer to follow the AP Stylebook and use only the last name after the first reference. Either way is fine, but once you decide which to use, stick with it throughout the entire text.

The same goes for everything else: dates, organizations’ names, titles, locations, acronyms, and anything else that appears in your piece more than once. And make sure you use the same font and type size throughout your document.

After you finish your first draft and begin the editing process, remember to include consistency as part of your screening. Lack of consistency is a simple mistake to make, but it’s easy to fix.

Maintaining consistency in your business writing is among the many principles I teach in the workshops I present to clients. Want to learn how I can help your organization improve its communications? Feel free to contact me.

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