How to make your content goof-proof

OOOPS!

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The idea for this blog came to me after seeing the huge publishing boo-boo above. And, as I drafted it, this spectacular error (below) about the State of the Union, hit the news. In the spirit of this earlier post (“Publicity on slow days”), I’m news-jacking it!

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The images above remind us that even professionals make errors. But at the end of the day, that’s no excuse. We market and communicate in a world that’s as fast-paced as ever, and this rush to produce more content quicker introduces more errors that ever.

Some think that minor errors are ok because we generally fix them quickly with an update to the web page and be done. But that’s inefficient on the back end and causes laziness on the front end of content creation.

What follows is a goof-proof way to bullet-proof your copy. And yeah, it’s old school, but often old-school was the best school.

Print two copies of whatever content you’ve created, whether it’s a web splash page, a blog, a whitepaper or technical article, or an email blast.  I can hear folks now – that’s a waste of paper. (Really? Burn it in the fire place or use the unprinted back as scrap paper).

Next step: Tap a colleague on the shoulder and invite her to come have coffee. Sit facing each other and hand her a copy of the content. Then have one of you read the copy aloud slowly, even saying out loud punctuation marks and paragraph transitions. While the copy is read aloud, you read the content with your eyes, making notes. Make any changes necessary and then switch roles and repeat the process. Sounds tedious, but if the person who edited the front page of the Cambridge News followed this process, well, we would not have a blog post now would we?

In this day and age of flexible offices, such as We-Work, it can also help in fostering a work community and opening the doors to networking.  Everyone needs proofreading at some point – not just us marketers.

Because I often work from the home office, finding a colleague to review with can be difficult. If you’re in a similar situation, I strongly suggest you read your copy aloud to yourself (slowly) as you proofread. Then read it aloud backwards.  I’ve caught many potential mistakes this way.

I suggest also reading an important email over aloud before sending.  You’ll find minor mistakes – forgetting the letter “a” or using “on” when you meant to write “of” … you get the picture.

Follow this practice and you’ll never become a laughingstock, someone’s meme or have to offer an apology like this:

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