In Blogging For Business, Beware of the Mondegreen Effect

A blog content writer like me’s always on the alert for interesting expressions.  The four candlesother day I learned a new word listening to PBS radio: mondegreen.

A mondegreen, I found out, is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase.  A listener hears one thing, when the speaker actually had something totally different in mind.  
That statement got my attention, because the blog writing services that I and the other freelance SEO copywriters  at Say It For You provide are an important part of each client company’s branding and corporate identity.

The very last thing any one of us would want is to be misunderstood.  And, even though the blog posts are read rather than listened to, I can see how easy it could be for the mondegreen effect to creep into the text of the blog.  After all, the consumers reading the posts are not trained in whatever the company’s specialty is, and could understandably misunderstand:

  • the significance of the data presented
  • the advice and the intent behind it
  • the directions for use of the product

    fork handleAmusingly, PBS radio explained that there’s an entire generation of children who thought that, besides Rudolph, Santa had another, meaner, reindeer named Olive. (They misheard "all of the other reindeer".)  Of course the mondegreens in the pledge of allegiance are rife among children: "I led the pigeons to the flag".) And, when a speaker isn’t clear about fork handles, even an adult listener could think she means "four candles".

When I’m offering business blogging assistance, I like to suggest myth-busting and origin-tracing as content ideas, ways to offer useful information while at the same time showcasing the expertise of the business owner in his field. In that vein, here’s the scoop on the origin on the term modegreen:

Writer Sylvia Wright invented the term in 1954, based on a Scottish poem she’s misheard as a child:

  Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands
  Oh, where hae ye been?
  They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray
  and laid him on the green.  (Get it?)

If ever there was a lesson about the importance of clarity in corporate blog writing, it’s in this PBS item about mondegreens.  The danger, of course, is that online readers will misunderstand your message, coming away with an impression of your company that is the opposite of the one your marketing strategy and tactics development was designed for.

When it comes to web-based communication, words and pictures are a business’ only tools.  Above all, then, corporate writing for business must make itself clear!

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