The other day I came across a business site and saw this: “…we help you acheive…” Oh.No.They.Didn’t. Yes, they did. The classic, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, blunder, which left me wondering: If they don’t bother with a simple spell check, what else will be missed?
I will stop here and acknowledge we all make mistakes. I have caught a typo the odd time AFTER I’ve sent a first draft through to a client. It happens – no one is perfect. But while perfection may be a lofty goal, there are ways to ensure the copy you put out there is as clean and polished as Thanksgiving silverware.
- Get with the program: If you don’t have your word processing program set on automatic spell check mode, go do it now. Email programs also offer a spell check before sending option. Use it. You’ll be glad you did. Now while these programs can’t, and won’t, catch everything, they’re the first line defense against erroneous spelling.
- Backwards is better: An amazing copy editor I used to work with shared this trick: read everything you’ve written backwards. It’s a lot easier to miss spelling mistakes when you’ve become intimate with your copy. But reading it backwards forces you to slow down and concentrate on the words, which highlights those sneaky errors.
- Find a copy buddy: Have someone whose writing skills you trust read over your copy. This is especially critical if it’s print copy, which as many of us have experienced, is expensive and time consuming to fix.
- Don’t go it alone: While I like how convenient and lightweight the online dictionaries are, I never write without my well-loved hardcover version nearby. Either way, dictionaries exist to make life easier for writers. So use them.
Disclaimer: If you find an error in this blog post, please remember how I said no one is perfect.