‘Palm-Hits-Face’… The dreaded typo and how to avoid it.
“I always do my best proofreading after pressing send”
There’s nothing worse than sending an important email, publishing an article, or submitting a job application and then realising you’ve misspelled something…
Oh, hang on. There is something worse: Not realising at all.
As a professional writer, one of your first jobs is to become a grammar / spelling ‘nazi’. And that comes with a downside, because you start seeing typos, misspellings and grammar fails… all the time, all over the internet.
Even the guy who replaced President Obama in the White House needs to proofread:
"No dream is too big, no challenge is to great. Nothing we want for the future is beyond our reach."
Well done Donald. And they gave you the keys to the nukes…
When I saw this epic fail from someone that should know better (or at least have qualified people who can correct things for him), I realised it was time for a spelling & grammar article.
Hopefully, it'll save some of you from making colossal failures like this one.
Here are 5 ways to avoid dreaded typos (and making a goose of yourself professionally):
1. Use a professional writing tool like Grammarly. EVERYONE SHOULD USE IT (Ok, that was a sales plug, but really, Grammarly is the spellcheck wonder tool of the twenty-teens). It’ll automatically pick up on all sorts of errors in your documents, as well as online.
You can even use a FREE version of it for most of your work online - check it out here.
(Yes... you should use it).
2. Use your spellcheck tool in Word, Pages, etc. They’re free with your word processor. You just need to actually use them.
3. AFTER having run a spellchecker, or Grammarly, take a moment to read your document / comment / article from top to bottom.
4. Leave your work for a while (don't send it straight away). Professional copywriters will walk away from their desk or do a different project for a while, and then come back to their document later with a fresh mind. When you read something over and over, especially after having just written it, you’ll easily miss things that a fresh read can pick up on instantly. If it’s not urgent, don’t send it.
5. Get someone to READ IT. This is especially important with key documents like a CV / Cover Letter, an important business proposal, or an article that’ll be read by hundreds of people (like this one - yes I did have a friend look over it). A different set of eyes looking over your writing can pick up on all sorts of things that you’d otherwise miss.
If you have a problem when it comes to spelling and grammar, that's totally ok.
Even Richard Branson struggles (he has Dyslexia and had difficulty at school) but he didn't let that hold him back.
Whatever you do, just don’t use poor spelling as an excuse for why you haven't done something - you don't need to when there are a huge number of great tools that can help you turn out amazing work, error free.
When you send emails or documents with errors that have your name (and the company’s name) on them, you’re damaging your reputation and potentially losing business.
Ask yourself, would you take critical advice from a lawyer who’s emailed you with terrible spelling; or a medical specialist who has awful grammar?
No, you’d be looking for another one, because in the back of your mind you’ll be wondering what else they’re doing wrong.
(And on that point – if you work at a legal practice and don’t have a professional spelling and grammar tool like Grammarly running, you’re really putting yourself at risk of failure.)
Where is it ok to misspell a few things, or ignore good grammar?
Other than drunk-texting your friends at 2 am? Well, even that counts too.
With content being online (sometimes forever) you’re likely to have screen captures of your messages come back to haunt you later. The lesson there is, if you're going to text (or tweet - I'm looking at you, Donald) at 2 am, at least use good spelling and punctuation.
Spelling and grammar matter all of the time, even when you're commenting on a post on LinkedIn or a business Facebook page. You need to remember that YOUR FACE AND NAME are permanently logged beside your poor writing…
Which, as our friend Donald has discovered, reduces your credibility instantly, leaving an impression of rushing, recklessness, and lack of due care and attention.
Here are some basic things to look for in everything you write (including your 2 am text messages while inebriated):
· Use capitals at the start of sentences.
· Use full-stops at the end of sentences.
· Use a capital letter for names, including people and businesses.
· Don’t use ALL CAPS unless you really need to (some terrible eBay listings come to mind).
· Use shorter sentences... I shouldn’t need to take a second breath just to be able to finish reading your sentence.
· There is a difference between there, their, they’re. There's also a difference between you're and your. Learn the difference and get it right.
Take the time to do things properly, it’s worth it
We’re not perfect, it’s part of being human. Even I’ve sent things with a spelling mistake before (and literally had the palm-hits-face moments we joke about).
The thing to remember is to take your time. Rushing is the biggest failure of any writer, and the creator of the greatest number of mistakes.
It’s totally ok to speed-type at 250 words per minute to smash out the idea while it’s fresh in your mind. But don't then rush to press 'send' straight away.
Look over your words, make sure they flow, and that everything you’ve said makes sense. It takes hours to write great work, and seconds for it to lose all of the impact it was meant to generate.
Yours in awesome spelling,
PS: If your company needs help with your writing, whether it’s proofreading, writing sales emails that convert, or simply a rework of the text on your website, just let me know. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0414 990 360.