Entries Tagged 'proofreading' ↓

The Cost of Spelling Mistakes

The cost of spelling mistakesWhen you sell face to face your sales pitch is entirely verbal. You can watch the other party for physical clues as to what they’re thinking or whether they are about to buy.

But the world of online marketing relies on the written word.

The quality of the writing on websites therefore has to be high and that means no spelling or grammar errors.

But can a typo really have an effect on sales through your website?

According to a recent article on the BBC website, the answer is yes.

Spelling mistakes cost millions in lost online sales

Now if that sounds like scaremongering to you just listen to this.

According to Charles Duncombe (an online entrepreneur) when a spelling mistake was identified on the tightsplease.co.uk website, the revenue from the site was twice as high once the error had been corrected.

If you multiply that one example across all internet retail you could be looking at millions of pounds of business being in jeopardy through spelling or grammatical errors.

The importance of proofreading

No one is perfect and we all make mistakes from time to time but locating those errors before your copy is published is imperative.

The process of proofreading is a laborious one. Quite often you can read through a piece of copy 3 or 4 times and still find errors that you passed by earlier.

And we’re not just talking about spelling mistakes that your spell checker will pick up. There are instances where you’ll spell a word correctly but it is the incorrect word for the sentence. Typical examples of this are using ‘you’ instead of ‘your’ or the wrong which, there and here.

The ideal process is for one person to write the copy and then having it proofed by a couple of other people.

Trying to proof your own copy is possible but you must ensure you leave plenty of time between the writing and checking process. The main problem is you become ‘blind’ to what you’ve written. In your head you know what you wanted to say so it’s easy to insert words that aren’t there.

Perfect copywriting

As a professional copywriter I would love to say I never make mistakes.

I do.

That’s not an issue though because I check and re-check every piece of work to make sure, when it’s passed to my client, it is error free.

Usually my trusty dictionary is sat beside me on my desk so if I am unsure of the spelling of a word I can look it up.

Remember making mistakes isn’t a bad thing – not taking the time to read through your work and correct them is.

Over to you

How do you feel about proofreading?

Do you have any unusual proofing tactics?

Perhaps you’ve seen a piece of copy recently that had a blaring mistake in it – how did it make you feel? Did it stop you from making a purchase?

Please leave a comment below and share your opinions.


The Cost of NOT Proofreading

It’s amazing where inspiration can strike for blog posts.

This one came about after a visit to the opticians. I dread going mainly because I have a tendency to faint but on this occasion not only did I not faint, I also came away with a blog post.

Whilst sitting in the big black chair, breathing deeply and praying that I wouldn’t pass out, my optician was making conversation and asked what I did.

After explaining I was a freelance copywriter and worked with computers most of the day (hence the need for an eye check) he told me about a proofreading blunder he’d read about.

Earlier this year a story appeared in the Daily Mail with the headline:

Pasta Cookbook pulped over ‘freshly ground black people’ misprint

In a nutshell, an Australian publisher published a cookbook with a blaring mistake – namely a recipe using ‘freshly ground black people’ rather than ‘freshly ground black pepper’.


In fact it turned out to be a very expensive ooops because 7,000 books had to be reprinted costing Penguin a massive 20,000 Australian Dollars.

To add insult to injury, Penguin Australia’s head of publishing, Bob Sessions, said during an interview:

“We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know.  We’ve said to bookstores that if anyone is small-minded enough to complain about this … silly mistake, we will happily replace (the book) for them.’

Well Bob, I would suggest at 20,000 Australian Dollars it was rather a huge mistake.

How to proofread effectively

Let’s get one thing clear – proofreaders are human and humans do make mistakes. No one is perfect but there are a few things you can do to make sure your writing is as perfect as possible so you can avoid embarrassing episodes like this one.

1. A second pair of eyes

In an ideal world if you wrote an article you would get someone else to proof it for you. A fresh set of eyes will pick up on errors you don’t see.

2. Time

If you don’t have the luxury of a proofreader the next best thing is to give yourself time between completing the piece of work and proofreading it.  If possible leave it for a minimum 24 – 48 hours before returning to it.

3. Quiet

Make sure you have peace and quiet when proofing. If you work in a large office you will easily become distracted and miss things. Find a quiet room where you can shut yourself away.

4. Print out

It is much easier to read from a piece of paper than a screen. Print out the document you need to check and go through it slowly line by line.

5. Go backwards

Once you’ve checked through your document a couple of times, read it backwards. Trust me, reading it backwards will make you more aware of the words you’ve used and will flag up any that are spelt incorrectly or are just plain wrong.

6. Read out loud

Proofreading isn’t just about spelling and grammar. It’s also about making sure the piece flows and has rhythm. Reading it out loud will flag up any areas that don’t flow and will show if you’ve overused words or terms.

7. Don’t rush it

Your reputation relies on the quality of your work so don’t rush it. The article, blog post, web copy or brochure that you’ve written has to be perfect to keep your customers happy.

Proofreading has to be one of the dullest jobs there is but it is also one of the most important. If you don’t want to make headlines like this one, make sure you take your time and proofread every piece of work within an inch of its life.

How do you proofread?

Do you have any unusual techniques that you find really work?

If so leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about them.

Email Copywriting – When Things Go Wrong

email copywriting - dealing with mistakesWe all like to think we’re perfect – but at the end of the day we’re only human which means things go wrong now and then.

Everyone at one time or another has made a mistake.

After spending hours on your latest marketing email, you hit send only to notice at the last minute a blaring typo, you’ve sent it to the wrong list, or you got the offer details wrong.

I can see you’re nodding. But don’t feel bad because you’re not alone – everyone’s been there at some point but its how you deal with it that matters.

How to deal with mistakes

When things go wrong people tend to fall into one of three camps. They either:

  • Hide and hope no one notices
  • Realise their mistake, correct it and hastily send out the email again to the same list without an apology or explanation
  • Hold their hands up to their mistake, apologise and make it up to their customers

Which are you?

By being the honest guy in the third scenario, you’ll gain more respect and happy customers. You’ll probably still get a rap over the knuckles by the boss but at least you owned up and put things right.

Often it’s how companies deal with their mistakes that wins or loses them customers. A company that refuses to acknowledge their short comings will lose customers in spades. But one that admits it’s not always perfect and does get things wrong and is willing to go that extra mile to put it right will retain customers.

How to avoid mistakes

In an ideal world mistakes wouldn’t happen.

Whilst being human tends to mean things will go wrong now and then there are a few simple techniques you can follow to try and keep these cock-ups to a minimum.

1. Validation list

Before you send your email to your customer list, set up a validation list comprising of colleagues or friends (if you’re a one-man/woman band) who will proofread and test out your links for you. This should help flag up any errors before its broadcast.

2. Preview

If you have the ability to preview how your email will look in different browser windows, it will help you ensure your email looks good and that the layout isn’t compromised.

3. Slow down

Don’t leave it to the last minute.

Plan your email marketing carefully to make sure you have plenty of time to compose it and check it before sending it. Writing in haste is asking for trouble.

Email marketing is a very powerful tool when used properly. Whether you create your own content or use a professional copywriter to create it for you, always make sure you check and double check the text, offers and links before sending.

Crystal Clear Copywriting – The Importance of Reviewing Your Writing

copywriter Like most people I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. When I was at school I had a pink hard back note book I used to write stories in. I used to think they were the best thing since sliced bread but I wouldn’t let anyone else read them; they were mine, something I had created and were for no one else but me.

I found that little pink book a few months ago and had a read. Boy am I glad I never showed them to anyone else! The sad thing was I thought they were good. They weren’t.

I’ve not given up on the writing dream and have written a novel and a half in my adult years (not published) – after the pink book scenario I’m even more wary of my writing. Mind you, in a funny way I have ended up earning a living through writing – being a freelance copywriter wasn’t exactly how I’d envisaged it but I love it. Watch out J.K. Rowling – one day…

The pink book taught me a good lesson about reviewing my work. During the writing process you become completely absorbed in what you are doing. You are so close you can’t see beyond the words you’ve written which makes reviewing it very difficult. But, over time (as with the pink book), your perception of your work changes making it easier to be more critical.

But, as a commercial writer, time is usually of the essence. You don’t often have the luxury of being able to put your work away for a few months (or longer) before reviewing it. So performing an effective critique on your own work is difficult.

To help you, I’ve put together five tips to review your work effectively which I’ve used over the years.

1. Leave it

As I said earlier, this one isn’t easy. Because of tight deadlines you won’t have the luxury of leaving your work for a long period. However I normally find that by working on several projects simulatneously, I can complete one task, leave it for 24/48 hours and then review it.

That is normally enough time (especially if I’m working on a number of things) for me to come back to it with fresh eyes.

2. Get someone else to read it

This one is going to depend on how you work. I work alone so it’s a bit difficult to get someone else to read things for me (although my husband has been known to be dragged in to read things for me). But if you can get a second opionion, that will help enormously.

3. Read it like a reader

This one takes practice. Even though you’ve taken the time to research and get to know your client’s business intimately to write about it, you now have to look at your copy as a reader would; someone without any prior knowledge of the product or company. Look out for sections that are irrelevant. Does it get to the meaty benefits quickly enough to keep your interest? Does it answer your questions? Does it tell you what to do next?

4. Read out loud

Number 3 will help you determine the effectiveness of your writing, this one will help ensure your English is correct and that it flows. I always feel a right Charlie sat in my office reading my work aloud, but it really works. Only when you can hear it with intonation, can you really asses its rhythm and voice. If you stumble over sections, re-write them until they flow easily.

5. Proofread

This is the last thing I do. Thorough proofreading is essential. The quality of your writing will speak volumes about you so you must make sure it’s perfect. I don’t know about you, but I find reading off a screen really difficult so I always try and proofread from a hardcopy. Plus reading backwards is a great way to find mistakes. Frequently, when you read something you’ve written, your mind will play tricks on  you filling in missing words because you know they should be there or skimming typos. If you read your work backwards, yes it will take longer, but it will also force you to read every word making it much easier to find mistakes – try it, it works.

How do you review your work? Are there any tips you’d like to share? If so please leave a comment, I’d love to hear them.

Why Proofreading Can Be Difficult

Hands up all those of you out there who have proofread a piece a work within an inch of its life only to find a big fat glasses_12x16_pastel_framed1typo once it’s been published.

You are not alone. The human brain is very good at playing tricks on us, making us believe that what we are seeing is correct even when it isn’t. And this doesn’t just happen to those who proofread their own work either. Even if you get someone else to proof your work, mistakes can slip through.


In a word – Typoglycemia.

What is it? Well, have a read of the paragraph below…and trust me, you will able to read it:

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiately cllaed Typoglycemia.

There you go, that goes some way to explaining why many typos slip through the proofreading barrier. Of course there are some errors that can’t be explained by this phenomenon such as those identified in my earlier blog Proofreading Blunders. They a simple case of human carelessness.