17. Being Interesting is Better than Being Correct
Remember your old grammar lessons with Mrs. Evans? Well… forget most of it. It’s holding you back.
Thankfully, most people are not grammar experts.
Because quite honestly it’s a pretty tedious subject, and a lot of the time being 100% correct will rob your writing of interest.
I realise that what I’m saying is polar opposite of what most people learn in school, so I’ll qualify my statement: The purpose of writing is to convey meaning. The purpose of grammar is to help your writing convey meaning.
If you’re able to achieve that, you’ve got everything you needed from grammar.
Overcomplicate at your peril.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to write the way you would speak – It’s much more engaging. Of course, you’ll be putting more thought into your writing than most people put into their speech. On that basis, it might be better to say that you should write the way you’d like to speak.
But we all make dozens of grammatical errors in our speech every day… Isn’t that a bad thing?
Only if it makes your speech less clear – if everyone understands you, there’s no problem.
We’ve all got memories of being told off by Mrs. Evans at school. Perhaps you started a sentence with ‘but’, or ended it with a preposition. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about those types of ‘errors’, and neither will your readers.
Except for Mrs. Evans, of course.
Ultimately, you should write your profile in a way that makes your meaning clear and powerful. If you haven’t written anything in years you may want to brush up on some basic grammar rules, but don’t stress over it.
With that in mind, here is a quick primer on.
Never be correct at the expense of being interesting.
18. Avoid Complex Words, Acronyms & Jargon
Using complicated words, acronyms or industry jargon is a great way to lose peoples’ interest. If they don’t understand, they’ll either feel foolish, or mentally brand you a windbag. Neither of these is useful for our purposes, so read on for advice on when (not) to use complex terminology.
It’s often tempting to use complicated or ‘fancy’ words in your LinkedIn profile…
On some level it seems as though using words such as ameliorate or expeditious will make us seem educated and intelligent.
There’s just one problem: Lots of people won’t know what they mean.
Now, as a writer, my reaction to words I don’t understand will seem logical. I look them up, and file them away in my brain for future consideration.
Most people won’t do this. They’ll simply feel stupid for not understanding, and not many people have succeeded by making others feel foolish.
And sometimes you’ll find a word that has precisely the meaning you need, but isn’t necessarily in common use. For instance, if you’re a data analyst, there are several words (such as interpolate and erroneous) that have
very specific and relevant meanings.
Nonetheless, it’s usually safest not to use them… even if the alternative is using two or more words where one would arguably have been better.
Choosing which words to use is largely a judgement call, but usually it’s easy enough to work out. If you’re a member of the scientific community, and your profile is designed purely for other academics, some complicated terminology might be acceptable.
If, however, you’re a software engineer who does contract work, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of recruiters. They’ll understand basic terms such as the names of programming languages, but they’re not
specialists, and you shouldn’t assume they’ll have any specialist knowledge.
If in doubt, leave it out.
And just like complicated words, you should be wary of acronyms. Again, understanding who your audience is will help, but ultimately it will be a judgement call.
Very common acronyms, such as NASA, AWOL, or UK are going to be fine. If you’re considering anything beyond that, give serious consideration to whether your audience is likely to understand.
If you’re not sure whether or not to use an acronym, think about how many characters it would save. If the answer is only a handful, just use the full version… It’s simpler and safer that way.
If the acronym would save a lot of characters, you have two options:
1. Use it anyway – This could be risky if you’re not certain it will be understood
2. Rewrite your sentence in a way that doesn’t require the acronym – This is generally possible without significantly upping the words/character count
I don’t recommend simply writing the acronym out in longhand the first time, and including the acronym in brackets. In certain circumstances this can be used to enable reuse of the same acronym later on without further need for the longhand, but LinkedIn profiles are not necessarily read from top to bottom. Your audience may well skip around, meaning their first exposure to the acronym may not be prefixed by the full term.
Ultimately, if you’re even a little unsure whether you should include an acronym… don’t.
Finally, we come to the use of ‘jargon’. Basically… don’t.
The problem with jargon is that it’s been given a bad name by people all over the world, who use it in place of actually understanding something. It’s very easy to talk about synergy, management philosophy, and stakeholder engagement… much easier, in fact, than actually having any of those things.
Even if your readers are guaranteed to understand, you’re almost always better off leaving it out, or finding a better way to get your point across. Nobody cares what your core competency or mission statement is, so find a better term that communicates your meaning without the annoying connotations.
Finally, if a term you’re considering shows up in this video, that’s a pretty clear sign you shouldn’t use it.