5 Tips For Avoiding Embarrassing Copy Errors

Proofing Written Text Synapse MarketingNot long ago, I happened to see an online banner ad for an insurance company. The copy on the ad said something to the effect of getting “the lowest rate your [sic] entitled to.”  Were I in the market for insurance, I can tell you with 100% certainty I would not do business with that particular company.  Why not?  My immediate reaction was, “If they are so careless as to allow such a glaring error on their ad, they are likely to be just as careless in handling my business.”

Think of all of the different content that your company develops in the process of marketing your product or service.  Your website and blog, your email campaigns, your print work, your posts on social media – a lot of copy is generated on a regular basis, literally thousands of words.  The value of taking the time to thoroughly proofread every word of copy that you generate cannot be overstated.  Careless errors speak volumes about your business, but with a little vigilance they can be avoided.  Here are 5 good rules of thumb for proofreading your organization’s copy.

1. Commit to Proofreading Every Word of Copy

The types of copy I mentioned above are obviously major documents that should be proofread, but don’t forget the smaller items as well.  Imagine handing out a business card with your name or title misspelled, or sending a letter on company letterhead with an incorrect name of the street in your address.  These smaller pieces of copy are still large enough to cause major headaches if they are not checked before being approved.

2. Spell-Check Helps, But Don’t Rely on It

If you are proofreading an electronic document, spell-check is certainly helpful.  However, it can only tell you if a given word is misspelled, not whether it is the correct word to use in the given circumstance.  Some of the most often seen copy errors are the classic trouble-causing homonyms such as the “your/you’re” error in that insurance ad.  Spell-check sees these words as correctly spelled, but cannot determine whether the correct variant was chosen.

3. Try to Avoid Proofreading Your Own Copy

You know the old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” When you read your own copy, it is very easy for you to be blind to your own errors.  You are intimately familiar with the copy you have written, and so your mind tends to tell your eyes to see what you meant to write, not what is actually on the page.  As a result, issues like sentences with missing words can slip through your proofing net, and run-on or fragmented sentences seem to make perfect sense.

4. Proofread, and Then Proofread Again

Even when you’re proofreading copy you’ve never seen before, if you are not diligent about your task your brain will want to read what it expects to be there.  Once you’ve proofread the document, take a moment to clear your mind and then go back and proofread it again.  Read the words in reverse order, so that you don’t get lulled into reading the message rather than proofreading the words.  Some folks find that reading aloud helps them to slow down and actually see each word more clearly.  The old carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once,” applies in spirit to proofreading as well.

5. Proofread Everything – Even If Only Part of the Copy Has Been Changed

Occasionally you will be presented with a proofreading task where the document may have been one you proofread before, but now a specific section of copy has been changed and needs to be proofread.  It is tempting to only proofread the altered section.  Resist that temptation and take the time to proofread the entire document again.  You have been given the opportunity to go back and potentially catch an error that may have slipped through the first time!

Synapse Marketing’s team can help you develop compelling copy that will be proofread with extreme care.  Why not start a conversation with us today?

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