What is meant by this?

When Future Perfect vets written communications, it checks for spelling, punctuation, syntax, consistency and traditional proofreading elements, as well as for readability, branding/marketing considerations and tone of voice.

Most of these terms are clear enough, but what is meant by ‘consistency’?

Consistency is an extremely important factor in written communications. Inconsistent messages can create a great deal of ambiguity, sometimes leading to customers being confused, giving negative feedback to the originator or simply going elsewhere.

Future Perfect vets written communications for consistency of several elements:

Grammar

Is your document consistent in those elements which, when wrong, can create a poor image, but which are not easily noticed by proofreaders who do not specialise in grammar?

Example text (with fabricated names):

Bollingford & Stanton are leading players in the field of architecture. The company have designed many striking buildings. Bollingford and Stanton, who were established in 1902, will proudly celebrate their centenary next year. The company, who have had terrific reports in the newspapers, are really going places!

What’s wrong then?

  • Bollingford & Stanton are/Bollingford & Stanton is – which is right?
  • leading players/a leading player – which is right?
  • The company is/The company are – which is right?
  • The company who/The company which – which is right?
  • The company and their centenary/The company and its centenary – which is right?

Here’s what the paragraph should really look like:

Bollingford & Stanton is a leading player in the field of architecture. The company has designed many striking buildings. Bollingford & Stanton, which was established in 1902, will proudly celebrate its centenary next year. The company, which has had terrific reports in the newspapers, is really going places!

That’s just one paragraph, requiring 10 amendments to correct it and make it consistent. In brochures, it is not unusual for Future Perfect to find hundreds of consistency errors. Together, these all help a reader to formulate a negative view of your organisation.

Syntax

Many organisations are unaware of the syntax within English which is there to enable consistent messages to be put across – time after time – without wondering ‘what was written last time we sent this out’. The way in which you present your dates, times and telephone numbers will be noticed. Do you use a comma after ‘Dear Mr Fox,’ and then forget it after ‘Yours sincerely’? It’s easily done and often not spotted.

Message

Is your document’s message consistent in itself and within the context of other communications already distributed?

Spelling

Is your written communication consistently using the received spellings of words appropriate to the register of English required, especially when the material has been prepared by many contributors? Will it stand up to scrutiny by those who have learned English as a foreign language – such as those in Europe who might read your communications, especially your Web site?

Documents

Are your documents (released at different times of the year) consistent with one another when viewed as a group?

Maybe you would like to see a longer example of consistency issues and typical errors which we find.