When you have a split second to make an impression on potential customers, ensuring your content is error-free is more important than ever. Poor spelling looks unprofessional and potential customers can associate this with a poor-quality product or service.
Every bit of content you put out there represents your brand. So, the next time you write anything, from web or email copy, to something as small as a Facebook status, follow these 10 tips to ensure you haven’t made any embarrassing errors before you hit ‘send’:
1) Leave time for proofreading
Make sure you factor in time to proofread and edit your content, however tight your deadline. If you can, sleep on it and come back to it the next day. When you’re excited to get the news about your new offer out to the world, it’s tempting to rush through what you’re writing and post it after the first draft. However, taking the time to step back and read through your work will be worth the extra effort when you realise you’ve accidentally written ‘200% off’ instead of ‘20% off’ and still have time to change it.
2) Read your work out loud
Reading your work out loud is an effective way of finding out if you’ve repeated a word or missed a word out. You can hear if your content flows nicely or if something jars. If you don’t want to read it out yourself, you can get your computer to read it by using the ‘Read Aloud’ function on Microsoft Word.
3) Get someone else to read it
Asking someone else to read your work, particularly someone who doesn’t know much about the topic, is a good idea as they can tell you if it makes sense to a wider audience.
4) Look out for formatting errors too
Proofreading your work isn’t just about looking for spelling and grammar errors. Make sure your headings are the same size and font and all your paragraphs have the same amount of space between them. If you’ve used bullet points in your copy, check they all line up and you’ve used the same style of bullet point throughout.
5) Print it out
It’s not the most eco-friendly of techniques but printing your work out gives your eyes a well-earned break from staring at your computer screen. Looking at bright screens is tiring and can make you glaze over errors easily.
Reading through your work on paper gives you a fresh perspective and can help you spot errors with the layout of your work that may not be as easy to spot on screen.
6) Don’t rely solely on spellcheckers
The red squiggly line is your friend when it comes to picking up on basic spelling errors but, unfortunately, spellcheckers still aren’t as clever as humans and don’t pick up on everything. For example, if you’ve used the word ‘defiantly’ instead of ‘definitely’, or ‘than’ instead of ‘then’, the spellchecker won’t pick up on the mistake as the word you’ve used is spelt correctly.
And, if you’re writing an email on your phone, keep an eye out for autocorrect incorrectly changing words … we’ve all seen the trouble that can cause.
7) Watch out when using templates
If you’re using a template to write something, make sure you follow the prompts and delete them afterwards. There’s nothing worse than replying to an email enquiry and discovering afterwards you’ve written ‘Hi [insert name here]’.
There’s nothing wrong with using a template to make things easier for yourself but make sure you change the parts you’re meant to.
8) Check who you’re writing to
If you’re emailing somebody back, get their name right. This may seem like stating the obvious, but it’s easy to do, particularly if you’ve been emailing a few people at once. I was very confused by a recent reply to my email that began with ‘Hi Richard’.
Getting someone’s name wrong shows you’re not paying attention and can annoy people into taking their custom elsewhere.
9) Make sure your attachments are attached
If you’re attaching a document to an email, make sure it’s actually attached. When you have to send a second email that contains the attachment it highlights your mistake. Although we’ve all done it at some point, you don’t want to do it when you’re trying to impress a new client.
10) Check your links work
When you write copy that contains links, check the links work and go to the correct place. Broken internal links on your website can cost you business. If your link to your contact page doesn’t take customers there, they may get annoyed and head to your competitor’s website that’s easier to navigate.
It’s all about making it easier for your audience to do what you want them to do.
11) Make sure it all adds up
Including 11 tips in an article that promises 10 tips doesn’t make sense, right? …
If after reading this, proofreading your own work still sounds too boring, too much effort or too time-consuming, hand it over to me to proofread and edit. I’ll make sure your copy looks professional and you don’t lose custom over something as small as a misplaced apostrophe.