In the age of the 24-hour news cycle and the “always on” mentality of social media, it’s easy to overlook the importance of getting things right in exchange for getting things first. No one would disagree that accuracy and consistency are essential, but that goes for more than just the obviously critical aspects of an organization like membership lists and financials. Your content needs to be meticulous, too.
In 2015, an associate professor at Wayne State University conducted a study that pitted copy edited and un-copy edited articles against each other. The results showed that readers rated the copy edited versions significantly higher on professionalism, organization, writing and value. The more professional your content looks, the more readers will trust that content — and that trust extends to your organization.
Imagine a scenario where you spell your keynote presenter’s name wrong in a blog post. The flow chart of what goes wrong after that moment is not always immediately clear, but here’s what might happen:
- The speaker sees his name is spelled wrong and thinks less of the organization. “If they can’t get my name right, what else will they do wrong?”
- The speaker tells a colleague about the sloppiness of the organization, and that person decides not to take the job a year later.
- A member tries to look up the speaker for more information, can’t find anything, gets frustrated and forgets to register for the conference.
These might seem like worst-case-scenario results, and one typo isn’t going to sink your business, but a pattern of lack of attention to detail will catch up with you if you’re not careful. Being accurate and consistent is one of those things where, if you’re doing it right, no one notices. But if you’re doing it wrong, it’s glaring.
6 Things to Look for When Copy Editing/Proofreading
- Basic spelling and grammar – Spell check exists for a reason; if you’re writing in a widget without that capability, paste the copy into a Word document before you hit publish.
- Proper nouns and facts – Double check people’s names, title and credentials; verify times, dates and locations are accurate.
- Verb tenses – Read over each sentence to make sure the verbs are consistent.
- Sentence structure – Do you really need four semicolons and eight commas in one sentence? Break it up into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks.
- Formatting – Determining that the content looks good is almost as important as the content itself. An article can be groundbreaking, but if it’s all one paragraph in a tiny font, no one will read it.
- Consistency – It might seem silly, but being inconsistent can be jarring to readers even if they can’t identify why they feel unsettled (e.g., using both co-worker and coworker; saying % and percent, etc.). Stick with one style guide. Many organizations have an in-house style guide; others use The Associated Press’ guide.
Alexa Schlosser is in the Marketing and Communication unit at Smithbucklin.