This one is going to sound a little petty, but bear with me.
I have just edited my umpteenth document this year. In this particular document, the name of our product was misspelled, one of the words in the title that should have been capitalized was not, and there was a variation in font size within the document.
I know typos happen to the best of us. If you go back and read my posts you may find a few. In my defense, I don’t run these through an edit ring. I’m also not technically trying to sell anything. (That’s not entirely true as I realize that these blog posts contribute to my “packaging” as a marketing professional!)
As the Marketing Director and the highest level marketing person within my organization, the buck stops here. Sloppy work casts a reflection on the entire marketing team and on me so I take the time to read and review formal documents that my team creates. (No, I don’t edit their emails – especially those that they create on their Blackberries!)
Even people with very little understanding of the marketing function know that we work with words. If we create documents with something as easy to fix as a typo, why should anyone trust the rest of what we do? In addition, when my own team sends me something that they obviously didn’t take the time to proof, it alters my opinion of their abilities.
It seems like such a small thing, but it seems to me that a core competency for a marketing professional is clean prose. Proofread your own work, even emails, before you send them. If it’s a formal piece, have an edit ring that will take a look with fresh eyes but, don’t assume that the edit ring is going to catch everything.
I have several tips for making sure your documents are error free:
- Starting with the obvious – don’t rely on autocorrect features within your applications.
- Make sure you think your work is absolutely clean before sending it past anyone else. That way, they’ll find the not so obvious items.
- Don’t ask people who aren’t in a marketing or related role to edit your documents. They’ll wonder why they have to do your job for you. The only exception I make is for individuals who aspire to be in marketing. For internal documents dealing with sensitive issues, I may ask a mentor or close peer to review to make sure my point is coming across as I intend. But, I certainly wouldn’t ask them to look for typos.
- Pay close attention to the headers. People will edit the body of the document and completely overlook errors in the headers and titles.
- Read backwards to fool your brain. Everyone knows that your brain sees what it expects to see. If you read a document backwards, you’ll see it as a collection of words and not sentences that convey meaning. Misspellings are easier to catch that way.
- Know your weaknesses. I tend to use an apostrophe when I use the possessive pronoun “its”. Knowing that, I keep an eye out for this mistake.
- If time permits, set documents aside and take a look at them the following day. I reopened this post this morning and have already changed several things. Two of the changes were to correct errors in grammar.
- Email the document to yourself with the text in the body of the email. This works especially well if the document actually is an important email. What I can’t see in a document that I am writing can sometimes stick out like a sore thumb in an email. I don’t know why, but it works for me.
100% accuracy is probably not an attainable goal. We all make mistakes. However, every mistake reflects on you and you would do well to minimize errors in your own documents. An occasional mistake is easily forgiven. A pattern of sloppy work is easily remembered.