5 proofreading tips

The Great Typo Hunt (or “How Not To Sound Like A Idiot”)

So, did you catch it? Yes, I deliberately threw a typographical error in this article’s headline. Oh, I’m sooooo crazy. Yet, as silly as this potentially misunderstood stunt is, it’s still cringe-worthy for any writer. I’m not sleeping well tonight.

Words can be powerful weapons. Likewise, mistakes can be A-bombs that explode in your face. Assumptions are instantly made. Characters are judged. Intellect is challenged. Lawsuits are filed. And, good judgment is questioned, especially when the typo appears immediately before the word “idiot.”

So, does your copy mirror how you want to be perceived? Does your product or service come across as smart, confident, and capable? Odds are you’re falling short if your work contains typos. People can’t help it; they have trouble trusting copy that sounds like a fourth grader wrote it (unless it’s your fourth grader who wrote it).

It’s a simple fact: your butt is on the line every time you share any words that are written. Whether they appear in printed collateral, in a digital ad, or even in a casual email. They’re all reflections of you and your brand.

So, now you’re completely paranoid. Apologies for that. I can at least offer a couple pointers to help you tighten your copy and catch these unsightly critters. So, other than the obvious (spellcheck, read slowly, have someone else review it), here are …

5 Quick Tips for Hunting Typos!

1. Let’s go hunting! When you begin to read a piece of copy, think of it as a treasure hunt. There’s a sneaky ninja (or two or three) hidden in that copy. You need to track down and find your stealthy enemy, even if it’s just an  extra space. Catch that one?

2. Look it up. There-their-they’re … here, hear … it’s, its … complement, compliment … your, you’re … to, too, two. OK, if you’re not 100 percent sure how these should be used, look them up now and memorize them. These are basics that get missed far too often, and people who screw them up sound like birdbrains (yes, my fourth grader has these nailed).

3. Double-check everything. At least double-check if “double-check” is one word, a hyphenated word, or really two words. English is downright evil. You’re attempting to effectively use the world’s most difficult language, so don’t feel bad about needing to check your work.

4. Put it down and walk away. If you have the opportunity (and time), put your copy down and review it later. Overnight is best. Not only will errors jump off the page upon a fresh viewing, your writing itself will improve as you tighten the piece and change your word selection.

5. Digital counts, too! A high standard for copy quality should apply to anything you post, blog, tweet, email, or share. More than ever, online content is critical to your brand image. Don’t be lazy. Take the time to make it right.

5½. Find a Superhero. Bonus advice! If proofreading is your personal kryptonite, please (oh, please) find a hero who possesses this skill. Bonus if this person knows your brand and your brand voice. Pay him/her handsomely for this vital quality control function, and then sleep well at night, knowing you don’t sound like an idiot.

And now this…

Copywriter/Asst. Creative Director
Eric’s been doing this copy thing for a while; over 25 years now. He understands that proofreading, like any skill, requires focus and practice. Eric’s been knocking out creative copy with few errors (nobody’s perfect) at Element since 2009. And, he feels somewhat uncomfortable writing in the third person.

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