Have you noticed the lowering of standards when it comes to content on the internet? From clumsily-typed texts to the blogs that never saw an editor and bargain basement content mill gibberish and keyword-stuffed nothingburgers, it feels like you can't walk two feet without running into a comma splice. In our haste to become content rich we are becoming content quality poor. But just because everyone else is doing it, does that mean you can slack off too? No.
When I’m on a website to discover more about how a company can serve my needs, I read a lot. But when I run across misspelled words, poorly written content, or grammatical errors, it casts a shadow over the company. Most often I simply move on to the next website, assuming that if the company doesn’t care about the quality of their website content, they aren’t likely to care much about me either.
So as more and more people anoint themselves “writers” and pour out their hearts in blog after blog (and more and more companies ditch the editorial process to cut the budget), the clean copy bar needs to be re-raised. With just a little extra effort you can avoid the embarrassment and tacky connotations associated with content errors. Here are four guidelines to help eliminate some of the most fundamental mistakes.
Use spell check, but don’t depend on it.
New words, names and other unique words will not be in the dictionary and thus will not be checked. If you have recurring words that are in your spell check, you can add them to your dictionary. This is an especially good idea when you will be using the words in your writing over the long term.
Proof your writing.
Spell check is great, but it does not account for grammar or punctuation. Even if you have a built-in grammar checker, it is still a good idea to proof your writing on paper. The best scenario is to have someone else proof your writing, preferably someone who is well-versed in grammar, punctuation and spelling. If this isn’t possible and you have the time, close the document and come back to it later with fresh eyes.
If you’re using dates, times and locations; quoted material; proper nouns like names of people, places and things; or facts and figures attributed to someone else, always double check your facts against reliable sources to be sure you are presenting them correctly (and cite them appropriately to maintain credibility and transparency).
Be aware of these four very common mistakes:
1) Misusing “their”, “there” and “they’re.” If you don’t know the difference, look them up in the dictionary now!
Examples: Their car is in the driveway. Let’s go over there to play. They’re coming over tomorrow.
2) Abusing apostrophes. Use apostrophes to show possession and when you prefer to use a contraction like “they’re” to “they are.” The exception to this rule is “it’s,” which only takes an apostrophe when it is a contraction for it is. When used as a possessive, it does not take an apostrophe.
Examples: Its mine, not yours. It’s going to be a beautiful day!
3) Confusing “then” and “than.” “Then” should be used when discussing time. “Than” is used when comparing.
Examples: My horse was faster than his. Let’s go to the store first, then to the park.
4) Using “your” when you mean “you’re.” Back to the apostrophe rule, when you mean to say, “you are,” use “you’re.” When you mean to show possession, use “your.”
Examples: You’re going to regret it. Is that your mother?
There are thousands of ways to go wrong in writing, but a little extra care can go a long way. Take the time to do it right. If you don’t have the time or the inclination, find a writer who does. It may cost more, but sloppy copy just looks bad, and will cost you in the long run!