proofreading

I was recently searching for a hotel in New York City. I searched a few online hotel sites that let you compare, and then went to the website of the hotel I was considering for a stay. It was full of grammatical errors and typos.

This is a nice hotel. Their nightly rates are expensive. It made me wonder… if there is this lack of attention to detail for what I expect is an important marketing tool, what else do they miss?

I went to check out their social media. It too had grammatical issues, typos and spelling errors. I went to review sites to see what others were saying about their experiences. And, there it was. So many reviews focused on how things that were promised didn’t happen and that the details that they expected to be standard were overlooked. There was a lack of attention to quality and excellence that was a concern to me. I booked somewhere else.

Content Is Key to Success

We create a lot of content for clients. Social media copy, web content, blog posts, editorial-style articles, white papers, presentations, speeches, op-eds, brochures, videos, podcasts, webinars, backgrounders, news releases, media statements… the list goes on and on. Content is king, queen and the court jester. It’s how organizations strategically inform, engage and persuade.

Brand storytelling is at the heart of how an organization tells its story. And if there are mistakes in it, you lose credibility. Factual inaccuracies, typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes hurt your brand reputation. Ensuring that your content not only has a great narrative that engages, but that it also meets strong quality standards in these areas should be a given.

The Language of Social Media

Some of our clients have an audience that requires them to embrace a new language paradigm of social media slang. This means abbreviations and using numbers within a word (l8 = late). It depends on the demographic you are addressing. It has to be relevant.

Copy Editing, Proofreading and a Grammar Expert

We’re in a time of change – and that includes language. Words and sentences that would have been unacceptable even ten years ago are now accepted. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary comes out with a list of new words that are being added to it on a regular basis.

Language evolves and will continue to do so. It’s important that we, as communicators, stay on top of that evolution. We need to stay current with the words we use, but that doesn’t mean we can get sloppy, lazy or thoughtless about creating content. In our line of work, we can’t have typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or factual blunders.

What Kind of Impression Do You Make?

Let’s face it – for the most part, the first impression that a potential customer or client gets of you is online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your website, a video, a webinar… What if this communications piece has mistakes in it? What does that say about the quality of your work? What does it say of your professionalism? It says that you don’t care enough to pay attention to the details.

What Can You Do?

We work with clients to make sure that they always represent themselves as intelligently and professionally as possible (because that is who they are). Quite often, even if a client has written a piece – they send it to us for a copy edit, fact check and proofread before it is made public.

This includes social media copy. The challenge is that sometimes it is easy to dismiss an error on Twitter or Facebook because you were working quickly and had to put it up. The fact is, as much as social media is personal and more casual than other content, it still represents your brand.

As an aside, you should have a content strategy that clearly defines your content, storylines, the narrative and what your overarching content objectives are. Don’t wing it, don’t post for the sake of posting, and if you are always randomly posting – that’s what your ROI will be.

Be thoughtful about your content. Be detailed. Be aware that it takes time and effort to create great content. Don’t toss its impact out the window by making mistakes in it.

The Last Laugh

We found a roundup of some of the worst typos ever – that made it out into the public. We thought you might enjoy them.

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writing editing proofreadingThe widespread (and growing) use of online technology continues to push organizations to realize the value of creating their own content. (Full disclosure – here at AHA, we push them to take advantage of this opportunity too!) It is a good way to connect with stakeholder groups (including customers or clients).

Creating strong, compelling, engaging and informative content doesn’t happen without effort – or good writing and editing. I was fortunate that I worked in the world of journalism prior to jumping the fence to PR and strategic communication. At Maclean’s magazine, where I worked, each article was developed by a team – there was the journalist/writer, the editor*, the researcher/fact checker, the copyeditor and the proofreader. It took several different skill sets to produce a good article. (*There were actually several editors – the section editor, the senior editor and the managing editor – who reviewed each piece with different perspectives: the piece itself and how it fit into the section and the overall magazine.)

For a communications piece – whether it is an annual report, newsletter, white paper, brochure, website content, frequently asked questions document, news release, speech or other document – it is important to understand and make use of all of the skill sets at your disposal.

The Writer

The role of the writer is to gather the information, arrange the thoughts and ideas, and present an organized approach for the piece. A writer normally provides a creative outline or brief on what we expect to deliver. It may be as straightforward as a newsletter outline that identifies each article with its key messages, if anyone will be interviewed and quoted, and the deadline. Annual reports or other more complex documents get more detailed outlines.

The Editor

The substantive editor is a person who works closely with the writer and deals primarily with the creative aspect of the content and the structure and order of the piece. If the content is highly technical, this person normally liaises between the writer and the subject expert as well. This person brings a clear perspective to the writing and supports the writer in ensuring that the information is clearly communicated, well organized, and that it makes sense. (Sometimes a writer can be so deep into the topic that they need support in making sure someone who is not as knowledgeable can understand the information.)

The copy editor deals with matters specific to the words (rather than the ideas of the content) and focuses on clarity, flow, sentence length, word selection, grammar, spelling and internal consistencies.

The Fact Checker

Another crucial role, the fact checker works with the writer and/or editor(s) and confirms the factual accuracy of the information in the document.

Proofreader

The proofreader reviews the document after all levels of editing and fact checking have been completed. The content is reviewed for overlooked errors in spelling, grammar, typos, etc., and when visual elements are used, they are the final check that all visual elements are placed correctly.

From our experience with our clients and in speaking with many of our colleagues who work in-house at organizations, many communicators either don’t have all of these skills or they don’t have the time to effectively write or edit pieces, with everything else on their plate. It’s a bit of a challenge because to develop a useful communications piece that informs, engages and inspires your target market or stakeholder group to action, it takes time and effort. For us, nothing is more disappointing than when we see a poorly written or edited piece; it loses its value and, unfortunately, doesn’t create the expected results (and it doesn’t look good for the communications professional). The need to create good content continues to grow, and understanding how to deliver solid content is an important component of the role of a communicator.

We have a strong writing, editing and proofreading team at AHA and, because of this, we do a great deal of this type of work for clients. One of the most high profile projects we have worked on was editing Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry – a 1,400-page, complex report.

At AHA, we offer a full range of editorial services – we write and/or edit and proofread newsletters, annual reports, special reports, white papers, briefing notes, plans, speeches, brochures, websites… the list goes on and on. We have always had a focus on content creation, and we have grown our writing and editing team to reflect that.

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-feather-ink-bottle-image19427719Here at AHA, we do a lot of writing. And I do mean a lot. Speeches, newsletters, articles, briefing notes, annual reports, op-ed pieces, video scripts, news releases… the list goes on and on.

If you write, that means you need an editor and a proofreader. Both of these are of great value and are two very different roles. And don’t let me forget, you also need a fact checker. I am fortunate in that I spent much of my early professional life learning how to write and about the value of the roles of editors, proofreaders (we called them copy editors) and fact checkers at a national news magazine.

We act very much like a magazine does when it comes to creating written communication. It’s a process and we take the time to do it right. And because we do it right, we have achieved great success on behalf of our clients. Our speeches have received standing ovations, the articles we submit to media get picked up on a regular basis, news releases generate media attention… you get the picture. It’s not because we are these incredibly talented writers who write one draft and then magic happens. We work at our craft. And it is work. It takes time, effort and focus – on both the information you want to communicate out and on how you tell a story.

I came across a great piece on Ragan.com that offers some tips and insight for writing, editing, proofing and fact checking. For anyone who communicates as a part of their job or in their personal life, this is worth a read.

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