The most common mistakes we see when copy editing business documents

You undoubtedly want your important business and public facing documents to be the best they can be.

And there’s always opportunity for improvement. Most documents can always benefit from a good tidy-up. That’s especially so if different writers have contributed to the document, as it will almost certainly ‘speak’ with different ‘voices’.

Fortunately, a professional copy editor can help by polishing your document so that it shines.

A copy editor’s job is to make sure that your business documents are clear and easy to read, that they flow, that they’re free of errors, grammatically correct and are presented in a way that’s easy to understand. Very simply, the copy editor’s role is to ensure that the final document is of the highest quality possible.

copy editor will review your draft content and, depending on the level of copy editing you want, they’ll make changes to it, sometimes rewriting or restructuring parts, to create a final document that is clear and succinct and clearly communicates the key messages. They’ll make sure that the writing style is consistent in tone and style with your organisation’s editorial guidelines and house style, with the text flowing seamlessly from one page to the next.

As professional copy editors with more than two decades’ copy editing experience behind us, we see similar errors over and over again in the documents that our clients ask us to copy edit and proofread.

To help you avoid making the same mistakes, and to save you time, here we explore the typical mistakes that our copy editors often have to correct.

1. Spelling and grammar errors

These are the most common mistakes that our copy editors have to correct. These errors can range from simple typos to more complex grammatical mistakes. Common spelling and grammar errors include misspelled words, subject-verb agreement, punctuation errors and incorrect word usage.

Even the best writers can make mistakes when they are in a rush or are distracted. The problem is that grammar and spelling mistakes can make a document look unprofessional and undermine the credibility of the organisation and the message it is trying to convey.

It is the job of the copy editor to catch these errors and to correct them. Our advice is that you give each document a thorough proofread after you’ve written and edited it – ideally leave it overnight and read it afresh the next day. You’ll find mistakes or words that trip you up that you didn’t notice the day before.

2. Inconsistencies in style and tone

Another mistake that copy editors correct is inconsistencies in a document’s style and tone. This includes issues such as changes in the voice of a piece, inconsistent use of language or terminology, and variations in writing style. Copy editors ensure that the style and tone of a piece remain consistent throughout the document to maintain coherence and flow.

When you’re reviewing your draft document be aware of these types of mistakes as they are very common.

3. Getting the details wrong

Copy editors are always on the lookout for inaccuracies in fact or detail. This includes checking for factual errors, inconsistencies in information, and errors in names, dates or places. Copy editors may need to conduct research to verify facts or clarify details to ensure the accuracy of the final product.

4. Redundancy or repetition

Copy editors are also on the lookout for redundancy or repetition in the copy. This includes repeating information or ideas unnecessarily, using the same words or phrases repeatedly, or including unnecessary information. Copy editors ensure that the text is concise and focused, and that unnecessary information is eliminated to improve readability and comprehension.

5. Ambiguity or confusion

Copy editors often have to correct ambiguity or confusion in the content. This includes sentences that are unclear or difficult to understand, words or phrases that are used in a confusing or ambiguous way, and paragraphs that are poorly structured. Copy editors ensure that the text is clear and concise, and that readers can easily understand the meaning and intent of the document.

Avoid using convoluted sentences or using multiple words when one will suffice. Good advice is to break longer sentences into two.

6. Using complicated language

One of the most important aspects of writing any business document is understanding who the audience is and what they need to know. It’s common for novice writers to believe that they need to use complex language and jargon to make their writing sound more professional. However, it can often have the opposite effect, making the document difficult to understand.

Think about who you are writing for and their level of understanding. Stick to words that you use every day. Keep your language simple but if you are writing on a specialised topic, it’s fine to use industry-specific words that your readers will be familiar with.

For more help on how to copy edit your content when you’re not a copy editor, check out this article.

How can we help you with your business documents?

If you are looking for help to craft an outstanding business or stakeholder document, our expert copy editors are here to help. Contact us or ring us on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377.

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