The Power of the Copywriter / Chapter 2


Chapter 2

How to Get Rid of Typos and Errors Forever

As you’ve been reading this information, there’s a good chance that you will have come across a couple of errors.

This is completely normal and acceptable. Unfortunately, it simply comes with the territory when you’re dealing with large amounts of content. Even best-selling fiction books will normally have a few typos in them!

So don’t worry if one or two bad spellings or poor examples of grammar slip through the net or you’ll drive yourself mad!

But what you do need to ensure is that you reduce these errors as far as possible in the time you have and that you ensure that your grammar is correct for the most part.

Because if you think back to typos and errors you might have found in fiction yourself, you might remember that it can actually completely take you out of the story and makes you realize that you’re just reading a book. It’s like you’ve been in a trance and as soon as you find that error, it completely breaks the illusion.

This is exactly what we want to avoid when we’re writing a sales pitch or adding a description to a website. We need to make the reader feel enraptured all the way through if we’re going to convince them of our point of view.

So how do we go about eliminating mistakes as far as possible?

A Question of Grammar

The first thing you need to do is to heavily research grammar rules and make sure you’re as familiar with them as possible. Learn where and when to use commas, learn how to use brackets and learn how to use apostrophes. While you might think you understand how to use this punctuation, if you have never received any formal instruction, then you may in fact be getting it wrong. There are lots of common little mistakes you see cropping up even in some quite high quality content.

For example, when using an apostrophe to demonstrate possession it looks like this:

Adam’s

However, when you use it on a word that ends in ‘s’, it should look like so:

James’

This is something you often see companies getting wrong and it’s hard to take them seriously when they appear not to know how to use an apostrophe! Is this really a business you want representing you?

Another common grammatical mistake is using ‘fewer’ versus ‘less’. The following sentence is incorrect:

“There were less people at the stadium than I expected.”

Why? Because you use ‘less’ describe the amount of a substance, whereas you use ‘fewer’ to describe quantity. So there are fewer people but there is less water.

Another common mistake is using the plural first person. This sentence is wrong:

“James and me went shopping earlier.”

It should in fact read:

“James and I went shopping earlier.”

If you get stuck, then the best way to identify whether or not you have used the right structure is to try removing the other person. You say ‘I went shopping’ and not ‘Me went shopping’. Also bear in mind that it is generally considered polite to put the other person first.

Now, I could fill an entire book with these kinds of examples so I’m not going to go into that in depth here. The point to take away is simply that there are lots of little rules that you need to consider. If you haven’t actually been taught the correct use, then chances are you may be using them incorrectly. So if there’s any doubt in your mind, then do the research!

99% of people might not notice the difference. But it’s the very biggest clients that will find these grammatical errors jarring and that can end up costing you a lot of money.

No Right Answer

But what about cases where there is no right answer?

Or what about cases where you are appealing to audiences in different parts of the world?

For example, should you treat a business name as a plural or a singular? Consider the following sentence:

“Microsoft are gearing up for their big launch today.”

Versus:

“Microsoft is gearing up for its big launch today!”

If you’re reading this in the US, then chances are that the first option will sound a lot more natural to you and the second line will feel jarring. But actually this is the opposite way around in the UK.

And even in the US, there is an argument for sometimes treating a company as a plural. For example, if you were talking about something the company did recently, then you might say:

“Microsoft is gearing up for its big launch today. They’re about to announce a new piece of software…”

As opposed to:

“Microsoft is gearing up for its big launch today. It is about to announce a new piece software…”

In this case, saying ‘it’ doesn’t quite sound right.

So there’s actually no right or wrong way to treat this problem and instead you need to use your own judgement.

Another example is the use of commas. Here is one sentence that uses commas the way that is generally regarded as ‘correct’ at least in traditional school systems:

“Bring your hat, shoes, scarf and coat.”

But many people would instead write:

“Bring your hat, shoes, scarf, and coat.”

The latter use of the comma is what is known as the ‘Oxford comma’ and it is generally becoming more and more widely used.

I found this fun example as to why on the web:

“I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.”

In this situation you can read this in one of two ways. Either you love both your parents and Humpty Dumpty and Lady Gaga; or you love your parents… who are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty!

Simply using the Oxford comma completely eliminates this issue, like so:

“I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.”

Again, this is at your discretion. So how do you decide?

Basically, the decision should come down to one simple thing:

Which option best serves the purpose of your content and provides the best clarity?

Don’t worry about what’s ‘right’ or what’s ‘wrong’. Focus instead on the end result: communicating clearly with your reader. In most cases, that means you’ll want to use the Oxford comma.

Likewise, when wondering whether you should include a comma after an interjection, ask yourself if it adds to the flow of the text or detracts from it. Again, this is the only factor that should really matter.

One more rule to follow though is this: always remain consistent. If you run a website or blog, make sure that you set out your own ‘editorial guidelines’ and share these with your contributors as well. If you keep switching from one style to another, then you can end up confusing the readers and it will look like you made a mistake. If you stay consistent, then it will look as though you have made a decision on how your content should appear and you’re sticking with it.

The latter is clearly preferable!

How to Eliminate Silly Mistakes

Now you know how to write in a way that will be free from grammatical errors as far as possible, all that’s left is to try and remove the errors that you don’t notice. Like I mentioned at the start of this chapter, it’s not possible to catch every single mistake – but it is a good idea to try and remove as many as possible.

The first and most obvious tip then is to use Word’s spell check and grammar check options. Look out for underlining and right click on the words to get suggestions.

Another tip is to try reading your content out loud. This makes it much easier to notice where there are mistakes and it will also help to improve the flow and pace of your writing. Remember, we’re aiming to write as we would talk and reading aloud ensures that we are meeting this goal.

Finally, get someone else to proof read your work. Proofreading your own work is never going to be as effective because you’re ‘too close’ to the project. If you must mark your own writing, try to take a break from it and come back to it later with fresh eyes.

The Power of the Copywriter

Brief Introduction

Chapter 1

The Basics of Good Writing

Chapter 2

How to Get Rid of Typos and Errors Forever

Chapter 3

Grabbing and Holding Attention

Chapter 4

Getting to the Point Quickly for B2B

Chapter 5

The Value Proposition

Chapter 6

Encouraging Action

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