Five embarrassing copy editing mistakes to avoid

Whether a writer doesn’t have time to focus on editing and proofreading, or simply doesn’t understand the importance of it, lack of copy editing can lead to embarrassing mistakes.

If you’ve written an important document yourself, or if you’ve pulled together a document comprising contributions from different people, it’s wise to have a professional copy editor who’s not been involved in creating the document to copy edit it for you. It’s also good sense to then have it proofread by a professional proofreader.

If this isn’t possible, here’s our advice on copy editing and proofreading the document yourself.

First of all, wait a day before you turn copy editor and proofreader.  A night’s sleep gives you distance from your work and helps you avoid embarrassing and possibly costly mistakes.

Next, print the document so you can work on the paper version. Reading on paper is a very different experience to reading on screen. You’ll pick up mistakes and content that doesn’t flow well, that you didn’t notice on screen. Plus working from a hard copy is easier on your eyes than reading from your computer screen.

When it comes to what to look out for, here are five embarrassing editing mistakes to avoid. Even if you’ve copy edited content before, you might not have realised that you’ve making these mistakes.

1. Typographical errors

Let’s face it, spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. Just consider the word ‘unclear’. Swop the ‘u’ and the ‘n’ and you get ‘nuclear’. Both are genuine words, spelt correctly, which means the spellcheck won’t pick them up. But get the two letters the wrong way round, and your meaning changes completely. And as we know, the spellcheck can even substitute words it thinks you want for the words you really want. For example, we read online of an instance where a spellcheck kept changing the name “Jen” to the word “Hen.” Use your program’s spellcheck, but still proofread your content for spelling mistakes anyway.

Alternatively, use a professional proofreader. They know what to look for. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up and mighty relieved that you invested in their expertise.

2. Grammatical errors

If you don’t know how to use a comma, dash or a colon properly, it’s never too late to learn how. Another common editing mistake is when writers use two spaces between sentences instead of one. That format is so out of date it will make your work look dated too.

3. Not rereading your work several times after writing your first draft

Copy editing can be a daunting task for a writer, especially if you have to rework your own writing. Checking for overall structure, flow, and readability are important to form a cohesive, solid document.

Good copy editors are worth their weight in gold. They’ll transform your words into a flowing, error free document that’s easy to read and gets the message across.

Yet many people writing for business simply give their writing a once-over and say they are done. This can make your work look poor as you’ll overlook mistakes that could be embarrassing. If you need a way to freshen your view, try reading the text backwards, or changing the font or color to make the document look new again. Reading your work out loud also catches editing errors.

4. Watch for names and titles

How embarrassing would it be if you misspelled somebody’s name? Names, titles, dates, and the like can be nearly invisible to writers as we often take for granted that they are correct. Check, double-check, and re-check these to avoid embarrassing editing mistakes before your work goes to print!

5. Fact check

Always check the spelling of names, the accuracy of titles, and the accuracy of addresses. Question any facts that don’t sound correct and check references in the document to make sure they contain necessary information. Dates are often mixed up as well, so get out your calendar and be sure they’re correct.

Some editing errors can be incredibly embarrassing and can even cost your company money in reprinting or in public relations recovery costs. It is easy to catch embarrassing editing mistakes if you take the time to edit and proofread your work once you are finished writing it. It all adds up to becoming a better editor and proofreader – and a better B2B writer.

For B2B copywriting, copy editing and proofreading that gets results, you can rely on Proof Communications. Contact us today! Or call us on 02 8036 5532.

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