Here’s an excerpt from a funny article by Emily Folstad from the Brain Traffic Blog that illustrates a great point:
You might notice the unfortunate photo included in the upper left. When I first saw it, I did a double-take, forgetting all about my task at hand (looking for a microwave). I immediately passed it along to as many people as I could via email, Twitter, and Facebook, wondering what the ad was really selling. Here’s what I imagine happened:
- Late one night, after knocking back a few beers and knocking down a few walls, guy decides to try and make a few bucks selling his old microwave.
- In his zeal to get back to renovation, guy quickly creates and publishes a Craigslist ad, accidentally including a photo that was supposed to be, ahem, private.
- Lady friend’s derriere is available for all the world to see.
And what happened as a result? Best case scenario, dude receives many snarky emails in response to his “ad” and quickly takes it down, hopefully never letting lady friend in on the mistake. Worst case, lady friend gets word of her assets on display, which leads to a vicious argument over his general carelessness, which then leads to a messy break up and a half-finished kitchen. Full article here.
Big mistakes, like this one, and small mistakes like typos, odd spacing on web pages, and unreadable fonts on road signs happen all the time to everyone. By everyone I mean from the largest corporations (where you often hear about big, giant social media debacles in the press) to the smallest business where the owner is doing all the writing, editing and publishing.
The above article recommends that you get someone else to edit your work but, that’s not always possible. So if you don’t have someone else to do the proofing and editing here are some tips to find the mistakes:
1) According to brain science research after you work up a draft put it aside and wait at least 20 hours before reviewing. 20 hours is enough time for your brain to view it as new.
2) While you’re editing trim out all the long sentences; try to simplify words and phrases.
3) Read it out loud. This trick helps you find awkward sentences.
4) Use spell checker – always!
5) Consider if there are changes that would make the message better or simpler for your customer.
6) And for really critical pieces get a friend who is good with words or hire an editor to correct your work and give you advice. You can hire great talent by the project at sites like Elance.
Typos, grammatical errors or missing information in your business materials and communications can significantly hurt your credibility. Try these tips and send out excellent mistake-free work.