Writing to your real estate prospects, clients, past clients, and those in your sphere is important. So is writing for your blog. Doesn’t it follow then that real estate writing is important enough to do well?
I think so, but there is still plenty of evidence that poor practices abound.
So – this week is a real estate writing refresher.
Rule #1: It’s not about you
The first thing to remember is that when you’re writing to persuade people to do business with you, your letters, emails, articles, and real estate blog posts cannot be about you.
NOTE: Not everything is about business, so it’s perfectly acceptable to blog about family, pets, fun with friends, your new home, etc.
Real estate messages must never begin with “I” or “We.” The only times those words are acceptable at the beginning of a message are when someone has asked for your opinion or when you’re commenting on a blog post.
Unless your readers are all good friends or family members, they don’t care about you. They care about themselves, their concerns, and how you can help them. So focus on your readers.
Rule #2: Watch your pronouns
It’s interesting to note that real estate agents for whom English is a second or third language are often better at this than those of us who grew up using the language. They must have paid closer attention in class.
Or – perhaps grammar is no longer taught in schools?
The words I, myself, and me are constantly misused.
Some of your readers won’t notice, but others will. And those who notice will form opinions of you as a result. So follow the rules:
“I” is a subject word. If the sentence is about you, your opinion, etc. you use I.
“Me” is an object word. It is the object of prepositions such as to, for, with, about, etc. It’s also used in a sentence such as “Please call me” or “Let me know if you have questions.”
“Myself” is a reflexive pronoun. It is only properly used when you are referring back to yourself from the subject “I.” For instance: “I wrote this myself” or “I went to the movies by myself.”
I and me are generally misused when the writer is talking about himself/herself and one or more other people.
Less common among real estate agents is the misuse of “me.” We do hear it from others, usually as “Me and my husband talked it over,” or (even worse) “Me and him decided against it.” This is a double-whammy, breaking the rules of grammar and of politeness. (Putting the speaker first.)
The way to know if you should switch from I to me is to remove the other name from the sentence. Very few people would say “Happy Holidays from I,” or “They accompanied I.” It simply sounds wrong. Trust your ears.
Improper use of “myself” is most often seen in writers trying to be proper.
Perhaps this is an attempt to avoid using I or me, but it is certainly jarring to a reader who knows better. It is seen in sentences such as “Please call Joe or myself,” or “Joe and myself will be happy to answer your questions.”
The thing to remember here is that “myself” is only proper when you are referring back to yourself.
She/her and He/him are not often misused, however…
I do have an acquaintance who says “Her and I.” He and she are subjects. Her and him are objects.
Next, if you want people to read and understand your real estate writing…
- Don’t ramble
- Make it easy to skim – never present a wall of words
- Keep your modifiers in their proper places
Don’t ramble. Get to the point.
Don’t make your readers try to wade through sentence after sentence trying to figure out what you’re trying to say. One good reason is that they won’t do it – if you ramble, most of them will quit reading.
Don’t try to put too much information in one message, either. It’s far better to send multiple messages, each conveying something important to the reader. You might briefly remind them of what you covered in previous messages, then move on to the new information.
Avoid creating a wall of words.
Put quite simply, no one will read it. We might slog through densely packed words in an encyclopedia or on a legal document, but if the reading isn’t absolutely necessary, we’ll skip it.
One rule of thumb is to write no more than 7 lines in one paragraph. My personal preference is no more than 4 or 5. Then break the paragraphs apart with a blank line between them.
Break things up even more by using sub-headlines, bolding, and bulleting. People like to skim before they commit to reading an entire message, so make it easy for them.
Put modifiers in their place.
Have you ever read an article and become confused over one or more of the who, what, when, why, and where aspects? I certainly have.
This often happens when the writer rambles, and when a modifying phrase is positioned incorrectly. As a simple example, consider this sentence: “The woman ran into the cow in the red dress.”
This error is so common that on days when I take time to read my email, I’ll run into it 2 or 3 times. That commonality doesn’t make it OK, so when you write a sentence with a modifying phrase, go back and read it aloud before you mail or publish the piece. Better yet, have someone else read it as part of having a second set of eyes proofread your work.
And that brings us to…
Proofread your real estate writing.
Of course you want your real estate writing to be correct in terms of spelling and other word usages. So take the time to proofread. Twice. Or more. If possible, enlist a friend or family member to proofread one more time.
If your mind becomes distracted, it’s easy to write hear when you meant here, or there when you meant their. I’m really good at writing “teh” instead of the.
Check for those errors.
At the same time, check for repeated or missed words, and pay careful attention to areas where you’ve done some editing. If you’ve turned a sentence around, it’s easy to miss a stray word that should have been removed.
Check to see that your subject and verb match with regard to singular or plural. This is a tricky one, and you might not notice the error if there’s a phrase between the subject and verb.
For example, it might take a minute to see exactly what is wrong with this sentence: “Something that instantly improves the appearance of a kitchen are beautiful ornate modern hardware for cabinets and drawers.”
I came across that sentence in a commercially produced seller advice book. It hit me as “wrong” but I had to go back and read it again to see why. The subject: “something” is singular. The verb: “are” is plural.
One thing you don’t want is to make your readers go back and re-read your words because they seem somehow off.
One more thing…
If you’re unsure of yourself when it comes to real estate writing, keep practicing. Enlist a friend who is a good writer to help you correct and improve what you write. The only way you will become proficient is to keep learning and keep working on it.
Yes, I can help with the big things, but…
However, you still need to reply to emails promptly, so if you’re having trouble with writing, take the time and make the effort to polish your skills.
Grammar book courtesy of Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net