TOP 5 ERRORS FOUND IN COPY
A BLOG BY LAUREN FLINT-JOHNSON (COPYWRITER AT TRIDENT MARKETING)
As a copywriter and proofreader by day, you would think that as soon as I leave the office, I don’t want to read or edit anything else. But no, I find myself correcting everything – much to my friend’s and family’s dismay. I even used to annoy my partner by spotting spelling mistakes in menus when he takes me out to dinner, although he is so used to it now that he tries to spot them before I do.
Your customers and target audience will hopefully not be the grammar nerd that I am and will not be reading your content solely to find mistakes. However, it is good to know the most common mistakes in copy (written content) to keep an eye out for and avoid in any that you produce.
First impressions are everything! If, when a customer first sees your brand, the first thing they spot is a spelling mistake or grammatical error it instantly damages your brand’s reputation and makes you seem less professional. It can also impact your google ranking if your search terms are spelt wrong.
These are the top five mistakes and errors I see all the time in copy that are not picked up by spell checkers and often make it through to being published or printed.
- You knew it was coming: There, their, they’re
These three words are not interchangeable. They’re all there for their own reason. (And, yes, I am proud of myself for fitting all three into one sentence)
There = a place
They’re = They are
Their = ownership
- Really, really long sentences!
I’m sure my colleagues think I am insane, but I regularly read things out loud when I am writing because if I cannot say a sentence without taking a deep breath, then it needs to be rewritten and shortened; plus, your copy needs to be strong and captivating and really long sentences tend to have incorrect grammar and are a bit boring to read. (I wrote this as a very long sentence on purpose)
- Capital Letters in Titles
This one seems to really confuse people, and there are great websites out there that can help you capitalise your title correctly, such as capitalisemytitle.com
You need to capitalise the following:
1 – All first and last words
2 – All nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and subordinate conjunctions
3 – Any words that are four letters or more
Do not capitalise:
1 – articles that are not part of verbs (e.g., a, an, the)
2 – conjunctions and prepositions that are shorter than three letters (and, on, at)
3 – the word ‘to’ in infinitive phrases.
E.g. I Hope This Is Not a Boring Blog
- The wrong name!
I see this all the time, and if it was to be missed, it would give a terrible first impression to potential customers. Businesses and companies tend to reuse the same copy or sections of it as they sell similar products or provide similar services. But, so often, I see copy used for one location that has been used again, and the location name still needs to be changed, or a similar product with a similar description and the product title still needs to be changed.
It is such a simple fix. Every time you are using duplicate copy or using old copy as a template for new copy, simply press ‘Control’ and ‘F’ and type in the name of the previous location/item, and it will highlight any that have been missed.
- Too many exclamation marks!!!!
Not the worst grammatical error in the world, but a grammatical mistake all the same and a personal bugbear, do not overuse exclamation marks! When any written copy, particularly adverts and posters, are littered with exclamation marks, it looks messy and unprofessional. Never use more than one exclamation mark together. One is enough to make your point perfectly clear.
As a rule of thumb, I tend to never have more than one in a
document. The purpose of an exclamation mark is to show a sudden action or a strong emotion; if you have too many of these, it loses its impact. They still have importance, of course, and sharing a customer’s review with an exclamation to show their strong emotions or using one on a banner can make copy more effective, but you need to be mindful about how you are using them.
Plus, too many exclamation marks can look like spam. If you received two emails, one saying “Sale now on – thousands of items at reduced prices. Ending soon – Don’t miss it!”, and another saying “Sale now on! Thousands of items at reduced prices! Ending soon! Don’t miss it!”, which would you open? I know which one I would avoid for sure.
I also would strongly recommend not using exclamation marks in business correspondence and in emails where you do not have a pre-existing relationship with the recipient.
So, they are the top 5 mistakes that I see the most in my day-to-day work and ones that most commonly end up in print. If you would like to speak to us more about our proofreading and copywriting services, contact us today.