You find a Twitter account and it has a very short profile message. It’s just 3 words long.
It rather menacingly says: I’m after you!
This was a genuine Twitter profile from a marketing adviser.
So, what happened?
The profile’s owner intended the message to suggest, that he puts everyone before him. However, it read very differently.
His unsmiling profile photo only added to the likelihood it would be interpreted in the literal sense. That he’s pursuing you. That you are his intended prey.
The person in question is one of my newsletter subscribers. He explained that he was trying to write short, having just read one of my articles. Apparently, it was only after he noticed an increasing number of abusive tweets, which made no sense to him, that he figured out his mistake.
He went on to say that the offending profile message had been live for well over a month, and he’s still suffering the reputational damage. (Screenshots of his original profile have circulated in his local area).
Writing short is about impact. From a word-count perspective, this means using as few words as required, but no fewer.
And writing for business in general, requires attention to detail. This includes looking for possible misinterpretations. Especially those that could be embarrassing or, as with this case, embarrassing and highly toxic.