You don’t have to look far to find examples of editing fails that can happen when a company or agency doesn’t invest in a professional editing department. They might be funny, but they can also be incredibly costly. Here are five best-practice tips to make sure you don’t wind up forced to sell a $5,000 laptop you accidentally advertised for $500.
- Know your terms. Proofreaders read proofs — work that has been approved/sent to the printer and requires a comparison between the printer proofs and the approved final art. Editors review work on a comprehensive level; they check for spelling, punctuation, syntax, consistency, and grammar issues, such as incorrect verb tense, subject-verb disagreements, misused words and dangling modifiers. They fact-check links, names, titles, addresses and phone numbers and make sure work adheres to a style guide, which includes standardizing headers, serial commas, dashes, documentation style and more. Editors also examine overall structure, how the information is presented, the tone of the work and whether ideas can be clarified. Most editors also proofread, but if the work you need reviewed isn’t a printer proof, you want an editor.
- Use your editors. Seems obvious, but you can probably think of a time when you sent an email to a client and realized just after it left your outbox that you wrote vigor when you meant rigor, or left a decimal point in the wrong place on an estimate. Editors can help you with more than print ads and PowerPoint presentations. Anything important that goes to a client should be reviewed before it goes out, up to and including emails.
- Learn the basics. Commas can make you tear out your hair. En dashes cause premature aging. And why the heck should you never use a hyphen after the word carefully? Your editor can help you with the complicated stuff that merits four pages of explanation in the AP Stylebook. But if you consistently get the same marks back on your work, take a few minutes to learn the rule. Your editor probably has a few nifty tips to help.
- Social posts are important too. Brevity does not ensure your copy will be error-free. In fact, when writing copy for social platforms, it’s tempting to be less vigilant about getting everything precisely correct, because hey, it’s just a Facebook post. It’s also easier to be casual and employ humor, but that means it’s easier to commit a faux paus that could make your brand look tone-deaf or culturally insensitive. Editors check for that too.
- Help your editors help you. Despite all that angry-looking red ink, editors want to make you look your best (really!). If you know information about a brand that your editor should be aware of — maybe a client prefers decimals over fractions in printed material, or thinks cats should never, ever be referred to as kitties — drop her a line so she can add the information to the style guide.
In addition to building campaigns that are timely and smart, producing work that is streamlined, on-brand and error-free is key to building trust with your clients. (Did you know? Making fewer grammatical errors correlates with getting more promotions.) Before you put your work out into the world, make sure it’s ready to make its mark — for the right reasons.