Three Business Bloggers Go Into a Bar: The Punch Line on Copy Editing

Good grammar makes good business sense

Let me introduce three biz blogging buddies who meet up at a posh bar for a night on the town:

  • One just hired a professional copy editor.
  • One shoots from the hip – proofreads and edits every bit of her own copy.
  • And one is in the fuzzy zone – not sure which approach is right for her.

All three order a Midori Sour and share a platter of hors d’oeuvres. (I could have said “appetizers” but this bar is upscale, baby! After all, we business bloggers deserve the very finest in décor and cuisine.)

Remarks about people who point out grammatical errors in their posts, e-books, email marketing messages, and sales pages ramp up the evening’s conversation.

Seems there’s no shortage of stories on grammar gone bad.

If you’re waiting for the rest of the joke and a zinger punch line, I’m sorry.

There’s just nothing funny about copy editing. {Tweet Me}

Call it a quirk, call it a curse, or call it an asset. You decide.

But every misspelled word, misused word, slice of sloppy syntax, and sentence minus proper punctuation jumps off the page at me – every single time.

I’d bet my two dogs AND my piano I’m not the only person on the web with discerning eyes (and a seventh grade language arts teacher who cracked the whip).

Other people notice these boo-boos, too – like your email subscribers, fans and followers, prospects, and blog readers. You know, the folks you’re trying to build vibrant relationships with and hoping to secure business with some day.

Always presume a chunk of that population stands proud on the Grammar Police force … and graduated with honors.

From your audience’s perspective:

A lack of editing skills can mean the difference between pulling out their credit cards and pulling the plug on working with you. {Tweet Me}

Ew. Ouch. That second option really bites. And it bites hard.

The kingdom of content marketing is rife with writing errors – mistakes that make you look like you don’t know shit from Shinola.

Example:

This past week I received an email newsletter that contained the word, “annunciate”, which means “to announce something”. What the sender meant to write was “enunciate”, which means “to say or pronounce clearly”.

Using the wrong word totally botched the point she was trying to make. Worse yet, the needle dropped on her credibility meter … instantly. I mean, c’mon. Like she doesn’t have access to a dictionary?

No big deal, you say? Who really gives a hoot about spelling and punctuation and the slippery slope of sentence structure??

Well, if you want someone to book a consultation, subscribe to your list (or stay on your list!), attend your workshops, devour and share your posts, buy a ticket to your biz retreat, join your online community, or refer you to others, hopefully YOU give a hoot.

Caring enough to communicate clearly, concisely, and competently gives you a leg up with your “right people”. It helps your relationship with them blossom, beautifully, by boosting the trust factor and cementing respect.

Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the largest online repair community, has this to say:

“Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in emails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”

In his article on Harvard Business Review, Kyle went on to say “Good grammar makes good business sense.”

It’s pretty tough to argue that point.

So let me ask you this:

Are you shooting from the [proofreading and editing] hip? Or are you at least getting a second pair of eyes on your copy before hitting the publish button?

If you’re thinking about hiring a copy editor, what’s your biggest deal breaker?

Next stop:

Jekyll & Hyde scenarios are the main attraction for this month’s Mission: Storytelling, a word carnival for small business owners. Virtual admission and amusement rides are free!

  • Elna Cain

    Luckily I do have a pair of second eyes going over my copy, but I fear I’ll lose him. My editor is my husband and he absolutely hates proof reading my stuff, but does it anyways. I’m amazed by the little mistakes I make. I run it through grammerly and other editing tools, and he still can find awkwardness sayings. For example, I recently wrote “long-life choice” instead of a “life-long choice.” Go figure. Then there are the words you THINK are words, like irregardless, and you want to use them but should know better. Great post!

    • Elna, you’re a doll! Thanks for catching another one of my posts. 🙂

      By the way, I wish you could have read the long list of lively and glorious comments I received on this piece but they’ve disappeared (for good reason). I recently made the decision to switch from CommentLuv to Disqus. In an instant, poof! All my previous comments were gone. It’s okay, though. I had myriad problems with CL, which I’m happy to say goodbye to.

      You’re REALLY lucky to have your hubby as your editor! A built-in editor can’t be beat. I don’t doubt, for one second, he uncovers boo-boos you didn’t notice. It’s uncanny and mysterious how we can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes when we edit our own work. As I always say, “Even editors need an editor!”.

  • Yes, yes and YES!!!!! So often I’m reading a blog, nodding along in agreement and getting prepared to share it, when all of I sudden I come upon a grammar error and feel like I’ve just wasted my time. Because the grammar error makes me not only not want to continue reading, but it also makes me not want to share. It is SO FRUSTRATING because I want to be supportive of other bloggers and share their work, but I just can’t bring myself to share work with grammar errors in it. Often what I’m reading will have heart and I will so want to click “share,” but then I figure, if they don’t give enough of a damn about their own writing to have it copyedited, why should I be promoting it? It would just make me look bad.

    I understand that grammar isn’t everyone’s forte, but if you want your blog to be considered a “publication,” you have to hold it up to publication standards. That means that if you don’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your” it is essential you find someone who does before hitting publish.

    In other words, HERE HERE, Melanie!!!!! 🙂

    • And I thought I was the only one. 😉

      Bells went off when you remarked, “It would just make me look bad.”

      Thanks a heap for sharing your insights, transparently, Katherine. I’ve been in that same boat and you’re right – it’s frustrating. I’m a sharing fiend! I get excited and anxious to share someone else’s messages, lessons, and stories. BUT I start to hedge when posts contain grammatical boo-boos.

      Know why I hesitate to click the sharing icons? Because what I share online is, in my way of thinking, a direct reflection on me. It’s as if I’m putting my stamp of approval on a piece of content that needs fixing. Some might say that’s a ridiculous way to think but it’s MY truth and I’m sticking to it!

  • Hi Melanie,

    Since English isn’t my native I certainly make grammar mistakes on my posts. But hey please don’t hate me for that :). Maybe the good thing is I’m aware of making them but I try to get another pair of eyes on my work.

    I hope it’s never too late to say wish you happy and successful New Year.

    ~ Dragan

    • Dragan!! What a joy to find you here. We haven’t crossed paths online for quite a while.

      Putting a second pair of eyes on your posts is always a good idea – whether English is your first language or not.

      Thanks for stopping by and best wishes for a marvelous New Year! 🙂

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  • I can’t remember the exact study name, but a British study was done on how grammar and spelling mistakes affect online business revenue. They found that one spelling mistake was all it took to cut sales in half. Ouch! Of course you’re preaching to the crowd with me, but it is so important.

    On a side note, I am much more likely to forgive an errant typo here and there on a website than a homophone mistake (“they’re,” “their,” and “there”; “affect” and “effect,” etc.). Poor grammar is also a big turnoff for me, especially if I’m looking to buy something from the site.

    • Bingo! “Buy” is the key word, Molly!

      I’m with you. It’s highly unlikely I’ll make a purchase from someone whose grammar stinks. Maybe I shouldn’t be so darn picky but poor grammar, to me, is an indicator of things to come.

      You’ve piqued my curiosity! I’d love to read that British study.

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation! 🙂

  • I’ve always been a prolific hack-and-slash writer; I’ll go and go and go until I get to the point I want to make, then cut what I wrote nearly in half.

    Sometimes it’s a long and winding path to get exactly the right joke, wordplay, whatever. Almost every time, though, I end up coming back the next day, editing down, pairing down my word choices. Brevity is witty. It’s concise. It’s coy.

    Wit and expertise are found in the things you don’t say.

    To that end, grammar is wicked important – when you only have 500 words, or 350, or 100, or 140 characters, clarity is the game.

    • Whittling your words is the name of the game, Nick!

      “Clarity and brevity”. Ahh … the passion fruit of the blogging gods. And their mantra? “Get to the point!” It’s no secret posts 1500+ words get more shares but what if you could make your point in less than half that many words? I say go for it. Give me the meat and potatoes … please. I don’t have time to stick around for a six-course meal, do you?

      “Wit and expertise are found in the things you don’t say.” Akin to using body language to express your mood, thoughts, and feelings. 🙂

  • PREACH, Sister Melanie. I have often felt like one of those old fogies – “Hey you damn kids, get off my lawn!” – but I cannot help it: I DO judge others for their bad grammar and frequent typos. (The occasional misspelling may be forgiven. So sayeth Miss Business Manners.)

    • Yo, Miss Business Manners! 😉

      You’re in good company, Annie, and you’ve helped to back up my point. Thank you. Great to have you in the eagles’ nest.

  • Words can’t express how much I loved reading this post, Melanie. I notice every typo and grammatical error. If I have enough time between draft and submission, I usually catch these on my own posts, but it’s always worth getting a second pair of eyes on something important.

    • You get my drift, feel my vibe, and travel the same vein, Sharon! 🙂

      I’m happy to know someone of your caliber understands and appreciates the value in having another person check your work. As a professional freelance writer, your masterpieces are showing up all over the web, right? So you have a much bigger challenge at hand with all the different types of audiences who read your posts. And I bet some of those folks can be hyper critical at times.

  • I’m with you Cathy. A certain ‘laissez faire’ has crept into my work of late. Too much to get done, in too short a time. Pathetic excuse I know.

    Mel, as I read your great article, I shrunk lower and lower in my chair as shame clouded my vision. I so agree with your every point, and there have been times when I have been mortified at some awful typos in my blogs. I will just have to own up, buck up and make sure my husband, who is an editor and has taught me a lot, runs his eyes over what I have written. Thank you as always for your timely reminder. Pinning this one!

    • Sandy, you’re a lucky duck! An editor right under your own roof?! Life doesn’t get any sweeter than that. 🙂

      Don’t beat yourself up too much. NO need to feel ashamed or mortified. You’re a fabulous and experienced writer, a rock solid professional, and a delightful soul (not to mention busier than a one-armed paper hanger!). We all flub up at times. Those pesky little typos will never put a chink in your credibility armor.

      Can’t wait to hear your TEDx Melbourne Talk!!! A little bird told me you received a standing ovation. Doesn’t surprise me a bit. 🙂 xoxo

      • I want you in my personal daily cheer leading squad Mel. You brighten my day honestly. Will post you the link as soon as I have it!

        • Waving my pom-poms, Sandy! I’d cheer for you anytime. 🙂

  • Melanie, have I ever told you how I love the way you slice and dice a topic? I’d bet my cat and Ralph’s guitar that your seventh grade teacher adored the heck out of you. Like all your readers most surely do now!

    And I wonder if they know you’re a poet as well 🙂

    You can put me in the grammar Nazi category. I tend to break rules when it suits me but I still say that’s different than just plain bad grammar. That stuff sticks out, especially because it breaks the flow when you’re reading. Then the only thing I can think of is how to fix it. And I forget what I’m reading.

    We all make mistakes but if you want to be professional then be doubly triply extra super sure that your writing supports that. It doesn’t hurt to have a second pair of eyeballs look over your stuff, even if it’s your mom or husband. It’s also a good idea to have a professional writer and/or editor for the serious stuff – maybe not for every blog post but at least for your website or your sales letter.

    Nothing is worse to me than getting an email from another marketer that makes them sound like a second grader. Credibility = zero. And as a side note, I also wish people would tell more interesting stories like you do and nix the “professional” stuff. You can BE professional without being dry and dull. Good grammar and spelling doesn’t make you a robot!

    • Grammar gals unite!

      I knew it, Carol Lynn. I just knew it! We’re kindred spirits. This is precisely what happens to me: “That stuff sticks out, especially because it breaks the flow when you’re reading. Then the only thing I can think of is how to fix it. And I forget what I’m reading.” A fixation with the fixing. Yep. That’s me. 😉

      A tip of my hat and two thumbs up on this:

      “You can BE professional without being dry and dull. Good grammar and spelling doesn’t make you a robot!” One of the many reasons I love our word carnival group so much – storytellers, we are! 🙂 Nothing turns me off more in the blogosphere than posts that read: fact, fact, fact, fluff and filler, buy my stuff (or hire me). Ten shades of ugly, laced with icky. And not the faintest hint of personality. Reading the label on my mattress would be more interesting.

      On a side note:
      Ralph made my day. He enjoyed my little poem about content curation. I’ve been writing poetry for years and after tuning in to your podcast, I just couldn’t help myself. I HAD to write a poem on that beloved topic. LOL!!

  • It doesn’t matter how talented you are as a writer, another pair of eyes on your work is invaluable. I should know. It’s something I do for my own copy coaching clients (review their work, line by line) and it happens more often than people think. Even for me! I’m someone whose fingers often fly faster than they should and have been appalled on occasion at the strange mistakes that have slipped through my own proofreading process.

    If you’re a communicator of any kind, your credibility or authority depends on you putting out top notch products. (Other folks can sometimes get away with less-than-perfect writing.) I can attest to the fact that you’ve got some eagle eyes, Melanie. And your clients will love you for it.

    • Your signal is registering on my radar, loud and clear, Tea! No matter your level of writing prowess, everyone is susceptible to making errors – some of which are pretty glaring. Others are minor infractions but they still stand out like an ugly weed in a beautiful garden.

      Your comment made me giggle. Like yours, my fingers are sometimes working much faster than my brain. LOL!! Joking aside, I find the need to proofread my own writing several times before publishing. Once or twice is just NOT enough. I’ll still find errors the third or fourth time through.

      Thanks for the “eagle eyes” kudos, Tea. I’m really looking forward to [officially] announcing my proofreading and editing services. Last evening I emailed my sales page copy to my partner … to proofread! 😉

  • You made it to the #1 spot again, Cathy – the first to comment. Thank you for being a member of my beautiful and loyal readership!

    “The kiss of death” is a great choice of words. Not that anyone will actually perish, mind you. LOL! But poor grammar will certainly turn some people off. And it may turn them off enough to turn away and choose to work with someone else. People have pretty high standards and expectations when it comes to parting with their hard-earned dollars and I don’t blame them. So do I.

    “As you get older” – Ouch. Uh … let’s not go there. Who am I kidding?! I’m already there. 😉

    I’m a happy camper knowing you’d consider hiring a copy editor to work on your book manuscripts. I’ve read the big time regrets some authors experience from not hiring a professional editor. Sure, it’s an added expense. But, OH, so worth it!

    Just to set the record straight (and to ease my conscience) …
    The occasional typo is nothing to worry about.

    My web content philosophy: “If you shoot for perfection, you may as well shoot yourself in the foot. But always shoot for excellence!”

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  • One of the nastiest phrases in the English language is as you get older. I seem to notice it a lot. Wonder why that is. Hmm… Anyway, you are probably wondering what the heck that has to do with the topic of editing. 🙂

    I have found as I get older, my editing skills have deteriorated. Kind of like my failing eyesight. I used to be that person who never missed a misspelling or grammatical guffaw. Now, occasionally I see something creep into my writing that has me gasping.

    I don’t use another pair of eyes for my blogs (other than the built-in checks). And, yes, I have had the grammar patrol point out a thing or two. I do use an editor for certain client work (the rest have a team of eyes – doesn’t that sound Halloween ghoulish?) 😉 And if I ever get off my duff, I’ll DEFINITELY use an editor for any books.

    I admire you tackling this topic, Melanie. That alone is a kiss of death in the typo/error world. 🙂