Proofread to Perfection: Typo
Prevention Tactics for Copywriters
by Marcia Yudkin
It once happened to me: the word
"pubic" in my book where it should clearly have been
"public." And in an expensive mailing, I once caught
my fax number where my phone number should have
been, just before the piece went to the printer.
Typos can foul up your message,
offend your client or readers, damage credibility,
trigger unnecessary costs and prevent interested
people from being able to respond. Ensure that your
message conveys the correct, intended information by
following these nine steps.
1. Proofread on paper, not on a
computer screen. Point a pen at words on the page to
slow down your eye, so you see what is actually
there rather than what you expect to be there.
2. Let your printouts sit
overnight before finalizing them. Rereading after
time has lapsed helps you spot glaring errors.
3. Actually dial all phone numbers
to make sure you haven't transposed digits or worse.
Test all URLs by clicking on them, and carefully
examine zip codes and street numbers.
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4. In a recurrent publication,
like a newsletter, or an email you're adapting for a
new occasion, make sure you've appropriately changed
all dates, program titles and no-longer-relevant
information that occurs deep in the piece.
5. Is it LexiConn or Lexicon or
some other variation? Confirm the spelling of all
place names, company names and people's names.
Things like Colombian coffee but Columbia University
are tricky to remember.
6. Look up any unusual words in
the dictionary to check their meaning, connotation
and spelling. I was once embarrassed by having half
a dozen subscribers to my newsletter inform me that
I had written "inertia" where I meant "entropy."
7. Don't forget to look carefully
at headlines and subject lines. I'm not sure why,
but the larger the font size, the harder it can be
to catch mistakes that in retrospect appear to be
staring one right in the face.
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8. Read your copy out loud. This
often helps you catch instances where you've omitted
a word, changed things incompletely between drafts
or inadvertently dropped a line or paragraph.
9. Take a close look at stated
prices. Missing decimal points, the wrong number of
zeroes, switched numbers, shipping costs updated in
one spot and not another and so on are common
Above all, do not assume anything.
Some years back, a famous mail-order company barely
averted disaster when its back-to-school catalog
arrived in millions of homes. The catalog invited
shoppers to call a phone number that belonged to a
much smaller company instead of them. The
mega-retailer had to pay the other company an
unnamed sum of money (surely six figures) to
immediately take over the misprinted phone number.
The misprint's cause was an employee who "knew" a
toll-free number starting with 877 should really
have started with 800.
And that doesn't begin to top out
the monetary harm that typos can cause. In my files,
I have a case where a misplaced comma in a contract
triggered $2.13 million dollars in additional
payments owed by one of the parties and another
where an investment firm lost more than $18 million
because of a typo in an order for a stock trade.
Copyright 2009 Marcia Yudkin.
All rights reserved.