by Randall Michael Tobin
Today’s tip is about an epidemic which affects the professionalism and credibility of any person or company desiring to be an opinion leader or authority in their field of expertise: typos, incorrect words and poor grammar.
As a typesetter since 1984, I’ve also learned to proofread. It comes with the territory. There’s nothing worse than printing or publishing a book, article, newsletter or website, then finding typos, incorrect words or poor grammar in the finished product. Typos can also cause the person reading the text to go blank after the spot where the word was misspelled or misused; not the best way to get your message across to prospective customers or clients!
Other than the ability to fix websites as quickly as errors can be found (although errors are often found after a new website has already been launched and the rush of traffic has subsided), all of the other media mentioned above would require a complete or partial reprint of the project; an option most people are not likely to pursue due to the cost and added time involved.
Many word processing and e-mail programs have some level of spell-checking as you type, or it can be applied manually. But a wrong word spelled correctly is usually not detected by spell-check and so slips by unnoticed, e.g., “Reports lead us to believe the need didn’t exist…” (“lead” should be “led”).
What can you do about this epidemic?
First, reread your project from top to bottom and see if you notice any errors. If you do, great! Correct them. Then ask a friend or co-worker if they could be a second set of eyes for you and read your project. Besides looking for typos, they may also notice things that are unclear to them and so could be unclear to others not familiar with the subject. Depending on the length of time needed to read your text, you may want to offer your friend or co-worker an incentive for their help: perhaps lunch or dinner. They’ll be more likely to do a better job of proofing! If you proof your project and don’t find any errors, you should still run it by a second set of eyes as above.
As a final step before broad publication, you should have your project proofread by a professional (like Cyndie, our ace proofreader/editor here at Theta Media Group). A professional not only sees misspellings, but is also familiar with how words are supposed to be used, catching pesky little errors like “its” and “it’s,” common misuses like “peak,” “peek” and “pique,” and general grammar errors that are more prevalent today than they were 50 years ago.
Additionally, I’ve noticed a high incidence of typos and other errors in e-mails promoting events, sharing success stories, or soliciting support for a cause. I’ve also seen some really noticeable errors in presentation slides, which audience members then perceive as truth (after all, the presenter is considered an authority, right?). This causes the error to multiply and spread among the group. And surprisingly, some of the best looking, well designed websites have typos and other errors. Believe it or not, typos even show up in titles, headlines and subheadings!
But this epidemic can be stopped!
It takes only a little bit of time and attention to ensure that one’s written communications are correct. The result is that your words, be they in print or on screen, will communicate your exact message with zero distractions or confusions.
Thanks for taking two minutes to benefit from this timely tip!
Randall Michael Tobin and Cyndie Tobin
Proofreaders / Editors