Every time you publish something, from an email or blog post to a brochure or your website, you need to prove time and time again that you’re a capable professional worthy of earning someone as a new customer.
It’s all about perception. You want your marketing materials to demonstrate your ability to communicate persuasively and with close attention to detail, reinforcing the message you are capable and confident.
So what happens when a typographical error appears in your headline?
Yesterday, an example arrived from a completely unexpected source. A prestigious private school sent out a mailer encouraging alumni to attend an upcoming reunion with the salutation: “Mark you calendar and register today!” The typo came as quite a surprise because this school demands perfection, and usually demonstrates it as well. The mailing must have been sent to thousands and thousands of alumni – how embarrassing!
Dropping the “r” from “your” is a common misspelling, but that does not make it any less harmful to your image. You don’t want readers to focus on the error instead of the message you are trying to convey. And you certainly don’t want others to make a judgment call about your professional skills based on something so avoidable.
How can you ensure your published product is free of mistakes?
No matter how small the project, put as many eyeballs on it as possible. Usually you are too attached to whatever you’ve written or designed to be able to proofread the piece with precision. Your brain sees what it wants to see (the job completed!) and once your eyes begin skimming, they can easily fly over any errors. On a long-term project, often those on your immediate team are also too close to the product to carefully proofread.
If you have to go it alone – if your situation or the time factor dictates that you cannot reach out to two or three others for proofreading, here are six techniques I use to avoid dreaded typographical errors:
- Use spellcheck. This obvious first step is often overlooked. Of course, spellcheck is of limited help because it will not catch “you” when you meant to type “your” and it won’t tell you the “manger” should be a “manager,” or – personal favorite – “tryst” instead of “trust.” But spellcheck is a good start, and can be helpful in finding comparative words spelled incorrectly, such as a last name typed two different ways in the text, or two words running together, or repetitive words such as “the the.”
- Know yourself. There probably are certain mistakes you make regularly as you type, some words that get tangled or letters that become transposed, such as “form” and “from.” As you work, be on the lookout for typical typographical errors.
- Double up. Double-space a draft and double the size of the font. Reading Times 24 pt will force your eyes to look at the words differently and reveal unexpected blunders. Changing the font in this step will also trick your brain into seeing the words anew.
- Print it out. Use 100 percent recycled paper so you don’t feel guilty. It is much easier to proof copy on a sheet of paper than it is on a computer screen.
- Go backwards. I learned this trick from one of my clients. If you start at the end of the text and read from right to left, your eye focuses on each separate word. This allows you to see the words in a new way, which makes it easier for you to pick up any errors.
- Talk it over. Read your work aloud. This will reveal errors you would not notice otherwise. When working on annual reports, books and important pieces, I read aloud to one of the members of my team. We sit facing one another, each with our own copies, and take turns as one reads and the other follows with a critical eye. We even read the punctuation, like this: “Capital M mark you calendar and register today exclamation point.” In this way, the “you” stands out like a red flag.
Fortunately, in the example of the alumni reunion mailing, this was a piece sent to the school’s community members, not a mailing to prospective students.
Whether you are publishing online, in print, in digital format or simply writing an email, remember to appear as professional as possible. It’s difficult to catch every mistake, but it’s definitely worth making the effort.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to proof this post about five more times to make sure it’s free of typographical errors!