Years ago, I sent an email under the name of the company CEO to 7,000 employees of the company I worked for. It had an enormous typo in the subject line. Instead of calling it an “Update from Eric” it landed in mailboxes as an “Udpate from Eric.”
Yes, spell check probably caught it but I didn’t make the change. I was in a hurry to get the message out. I had read and reread the body of the message, and had colleagues go over it multiple times so it would be perfect. Yet I gave the subject line less than a smidgeon of care.
And that’s how the woman who is always the first to find the typo in the restaurant menu put something that’s not even a word in a message from a CEO.
Every writer I know has “the typo story.” One colleague failed to put the “l” in public when writing about her company’s work. Another intended to convey something being available at “the touch of a button” but actually typed “the touch of a bottom.”
Now, I don’t believe the occasional typo is a death sentence for you or your business. We’re all human. But when typos are a consistent feature in all your blog posts, sales letters, Facebook updates and other content, you start to come off as a sloppy human.
Consistent goofs can give the impression that you are constantly in a rush, you can’t focus on the task at hand or you’re not that bothered by details. Those aren’t inviting traits that build trust.
Fortunately, my journalism training, corporate communications experience and years of creating content for my business have taught me tons about proofreading.
Here are my 8 Proofreading Tricks for Cleaner Copy and a Better Reputation
Actually do it!
I find it far more effective to proof on paper, not on screen, in a distraction-free zone. Turn off your phone, step away from your desk and give yourself every opportunity to focus.
- Ask someone else to look at your work.
This is not passing the buck. A fresh pair of eyes will find things that you can’t see when you’re too familiar with the content.
Read through your work more than once.
In a perfect world, you’d have time to take three passes at your content: first for clarity and messaging, second for goofs and typos and third for formatting and consistency.
- Slow down. Slow waaaay down.
You can’t properly proof if you are reading at your normal pace. One way I slow myself down is to take my print out and point to every word with a pen or pencil as I read it out loud. Your…pace…will…crawl. And mistakes will come out of hiding.
- Look for the mistakes you always make.
Everyone has words we always spell wrong or mistakes we continually make. A friend of mine will invariably type “manger” when she means “manager.” I tend to leave out little words like “the” and “and.” Become aware of what yours are and look for them in everything you write.
- Use spellcheck – carefully.
Spellcheck will find things like “udpate” (if you let it) but it won’t know you meant “manager” not “manger.” It will do some of your work, but not all of it. Sometimes its suggestions are plain wrong, so pay attention.
- Give yourself time.
Take a break between finishing your writing and starting your proofing. A little distance will make you more likely to find mistakes, not just gloss over them.
- Check your facts, ma’am.
Is Wednesday, October 11 really a Wednesday? Is the material you say is on page 17 really on page 17? Double-check your facts, figures, people’s names and business names. Especially if it’s the name of a client or prospect. Trust me, they notice, especially when they have “tricky” names like Govednik.
Proofreading well is one step in creating great content that supports your business. It’s not the only one, of course. There’s also being clear on your message, getting into the head of your audience, editing for sanity and clarity, to name a few.
And, like most things in life, the more you work on proofreading, the better you get at it.
Now that I’ve confessed my stupidest typo, I just have to ask: