Content writing: never forget to proof-reed the Big Stuff

Inspired as I was by a Facebook conversation with my good friend and colleague Mark Orr, I want to share something with you about business writing that’s so basic even your Golden Retriever probably should know about it.

Content writing: never forget to proof-reed the Big StuffBut yet, it escapes nearly all of us from time to time.

It’s called “PROOF-READ – and not just the main text.” Why?

Many, many times in my career as a content/copywriter and otherwise business writer I have come across screaming boo-boos in not so much body text, but in headlines and cross / sub headings.

As (Print Expert) Mark Orr and I shared in the following Facebook chat…

Mark Orr: “In my industry there are quite a few printing companies who are selling non-moving letterheads which they describe as “stationary” rather than “stationery.” A few years ago one of my customers failed to proof read their leaflet. They were a diving school in Barbados. They wanted to advertise “Underwater Parties” but ended up advertising “Underwear Parties :-)”

Me: “ROFL…lucky they didn’t get the next word wrong as well and advertise “Underwear Panties…”

There are many more examples which – OK – give us a smile for the day.

But would your business, charity, club or other organisation find it funny with goofs like this in their headlines and sub-headings?

More examples of major fails in proof-reading

And these are just a few amongst dozens in my own humble experience…

1.Some advertisements that were art-directed and designed for an English tourist board by one of the top advertising agencies in the UK at the time. The body text and visualisation were perfect, but the headlines read, “Come Find Yourselfs Again In XXXX.” Major egg-on-face for the creative department especially when yours truly examined the artwork a few minutes before filming it for an educational TV series I was working on.

2.A poster for a local club of which I was a committee member but was not wanted to comment on communications, because there were several teachers on the committee who thought commercial writers like me mostly crawled out of drains. Result was a poster that spelled the word “Guise” in a headline, as “Gusie.” Red faces all round, apart from mine.

3.A brochure in which the construction company concerned used the word “insure” when they meant “ensure.” Not a problem of Big Type Stuff, but a Big Mistake: using an incorrect word many times, all the way through the brochure. This spooked the hell out of another colleague of mine – Steve Jordan of The Words Workshop – when considering the said company to do some work on his house. Did this basic mistake in English matter? Was it indicative of not caring enough about all  aspects of that guy’s business? Here’s what Steve had to say:

So how can you avoid, and correct, such proof-reading issues?

Here are my key tips …

Do not kid yourself that writing goofs don’t matter, no matter how unrelated to wordsmithing you think your business is. Trust us: goofs DO matter. See above.

If you’re not a born writer, don’t worry. Get the basic information down and ask someone you know who is  good at writing to check what you write. If you can afford it, get a professional business writer to help you, but if you can’t, ask a friend who knows a teacher or other “brainy wallah” to do it. The key point here is to get a fresh pair of eyes on to your text: that’s worth a lot.

Make sure you don’t just check the body text of your web text, blog, brochure or whatever.

It’s very, very easy to focus on the smaller text and forget to check the big stuff.

Yes, even us pro writers can be guilty of that… LOL…

For more articles on how to proof-read your words, click here…

Don’t trust spell checkers: they are the result of machines and machines can’t think or if you like current terminology, machines are not “intuitive.” Either way, machines suck when it comes to dealing with the lunacies of the English language.

Finally, unless you are at screaming point to get a blog post, article or other piece of content out there, try to leave some time between your writing it, your editing it, and your publishing it. The longer your piece of work sits around in your mind, the better it will be as you edit and refine it before finally posting it.

Have you ever been embarrassed by a Big Goof in your business writing?

Please share!