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VOL. 41 | NO. 26 | Friday, June 30, 2017

Wield a red pen to avoid being red-faced

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You’re probably thinking a lot about how your marketing looks. You’ve created a compelling brand, made videos to showcase your best work and even tried Facebook Live to document exciting events.

With this focus on visual content, you may not be able to bring in a professional copywriter to go over every adverb and comma, even if you know that the last place you want your beautiful marketing to end up is on Buzzfeed’s latest list of “Funniest Grammar Mistakes.”

If you need to make yourself a better copy editor without invoking the nightmares of English class, we offer the following tricks of the trade.

Read backwards. By the time you get to the editing stage, you know your message and your brain will trick you by inserting or moving words or even making you read entirely different text than is actually there. By reading backwards – sentence by sentence or even phrase by phrase from the last to the first – you disrupt your own thinking enough so that you’re able to see the text that’s really there rather than what you think is there.

Focus on one problem at a time. Still reading backwards, start with the biggest concerns, such as having complete sentence structure with subject and a verb. Then make sure your modifiers add to your meaning without distracting your reader. Bring out your red pen and draw a circle between each pronoun and the noun it stands in for. It may sound juvenile or unnecessary, but we think a red pen automatically makes you a better editor. Finally, get picky with every space and punctuation mark.

Enlist help. Check out blogs like The Grammar Girl or the Purdue University Online Writing Lab if you need a refresher.

Ask your harshest and most honest critics – like your 12-year-old – to read what you’ve written and explain it back to you without rereading. If they can’t – or you don’t like their answer – you’re likely not being clear, focused or accurate in your writing.

Make a quick video of someone reading your work. They’ll often catch typos as they concentrate to get it right for the camera.

Watch the video and focus on their facial expressions. Your 12-year-old might look confused as she’s reading but then tell you it’s perfect because she loves you. Your customers don’t love you, and you can’t afford for a single one of them to waste time being confused about your message.

Every recorded hesitation or frown is an indication that something needs to be fixed.

“More than 80 percent of the activities we do online are text-based,” according to Wired.com. We’re not advising you to do away with pictures, graphics or video, but don’t let your focus on your image threaten your brand’s reputation.

If you use fewer words to reach today’s audience, you have to make sure each one hits its mark.

Leslie Graff, marketing strategist at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.

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