Nothing screams unprofessional like a blatant grammatical error or typo on your website, press release or blog. It can happen to anyone, even English majors with an A+ average.
Don’t think it can happen to you? Consider this popular internet message that made the rounds on Facebook and other social media. While it erroneously claims to be a Cambridge study, it actually makes an interesting point:
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. Azanmig huh?
Evidently, when you’re writing, the brain makes an inferential leap, making it difficult to spot errors in your own work. Even some of the best-loved pieces of classical literature have had errors slip through the cracks.
For example, the first editions of Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Good Earth, has a synonym error. It was on page 100, line 17, where “flees” was incorrectly used instead of “fleas.” Later editions were corrected.
Lest anyone think the computer age has made best-sellers error-free, in Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, a typo led to “she can go about looking like a man-woman” instead of mad-woman.
Ironically, because these typos appeared in the original print run, it makes it easier for collectors to spot (and obtain) coveted first editions.
Your clients, on the other hand, may be less forgiving.
While basic spelling and grammar checks are standard with almost all word processing programs, sometimes, you need an extra boost, especially if you’re cranking out large amounts of copy. Following are some useful grammar and writing tools you should consider using.
- AN ONLINE GRAMMAR-CHECKER
Let’s be frank, there is still no substitute for the human eye when it comes to good proofreading. Truth is, some online grammar checks aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be. On the plus side, they do provide an extra level of review. Many tools, such as Grammarly, also highlight often confused phrases, dangling modifiers and even overused words. Popular online grammar checkers include NeuroGrammar, WhiteSmoke and Ginger.
- A READABILITY EVALUATOR
The most effective blog copy utilizes clear, concise writing on a fifth to eighth-grade reading level. There are several scales that rank the grade level of your copy, such as the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale, the SMOG index or the Gunning Fog Index. Readability Formulas is a website that gives the 4-1-1 for your copy from a variety of different readability indices. For free. Simply copy and paste your copy or URL into the space provided and Readable gives you the average grade level of your writing, ranking it from easily understandable (green) to difficult (red).However, there is an important thing to keep in mind: Most readability scales assign a higher reading level to words that are more than three syllables. This means that even easy-to-understand words such as “imagination” can register at a higher grade level.
- A SOLID RESEARCH AND FORMATTING PROGRAM
There are several tools available that pack much more punch than the typical word processing fare. These sites have color-coded research folders, progress tracking and the ability to import web pages so you have access to your information even when you’re not able to get online.With the popularity of using ebooks as a marketing tool, it’s important to have a program that can export the document into an epub or other format that easily meshes with Kindle, Kobi and Apple digital readers.One of my personal favorites is this one. While primarily designed for fiction writers, it also has a host of great features for bloggers, copywriters and editors. These include:
- Project statistics, showing the most commonly used (or overused) words
- Progress tracking (for those of us who love seeing that red progress bar turn green)
- Excellent backup abilities—Scrivener auto-saves any time there is a two-second lull on the keyboard.
- A STYLE GUIDE
A stylebook is not a grammar book per se, but it helps you keep your copy consistent. For example, should you use “4” or “four”? Should you use “percent” or “%”?A stylebook outlines specific guidelines to use. At Proclaim, we use the Associated Press Stylebook, but there are many others, including the MLA Style Manual, the Bluebook and the Chicago Manual of Style.Which one should you use? It depends upon your subject. For example, Bluebook is primarily used for legal citations, while the Associated Press is used for newspapers and periodical publications.
- A HANDY LIST OF COMMONLY CONFUSED WORDS
If you want to see the effect of how this affects your writing, we advise you to take our advice and bookmark this page. We’ve found this handy list from the St. Louis Community College website.
- THAT “GRAMMAR NAZI” FRIEND OF YOURS
One of my best friends from journalism school could smell a typo from a mile away. All she had to do was run the paper under her nose and take a great big whiff. With confidence, she’d reply, “You’ve got a comma splice on page five.”Joking aside, we all know someone who finds that error in the local newspaper, spots a typo in the answers to the crossword puzzle, or reads a grammar textbook before going to sleep –seriously, I knew someone who did this.Embrace your friend’s skills by having them give your copy a quick read. Many may do it for the sheer thrill of finding typos and a Starbucks gift card.
When you’re writing multiple blogs and web pages for a variety of clients, it’s vital that you present the strongest writing possible to amplify their messages. We hope you’ll find these tools useful!
Established in 2000, Proclaim Interactive is an award-winning, think-out-of-the-box digital marketing agency located in Wilmington, NC. Proclaim Interactive provides website design, social media management, SEO and general marketing services designed to amplify clients’ messages. Contact us for more information.