Typos. They can happen to the best of us. We know that entrepreneurs are time-pressed, money-pressed, and we don’t all have eager English majors waiting, red pen aloft, to prevent them from looking stupid. And even if we all employed hoards of copy editors, some errors still slip through the cracks; just ask Philadelphia Weekly about their recent cover slip-up.
The English language has plenty of pitfalls, and even tiny, easy-to-make errors can ruin your credibility. Since we know that you don’t have hours to pore over Strunk & White every night, here are some practical, time-efficient tips for busy entrepreneurs.
Take some time away from the document, and read through it later. Cultivating a good document is like cultivating a good relationship: sometimes you just need a little space. Once you finish a first draft, go do something else: take a coffee break, answer a few e-mails, etc. You’ll come back to the document with a fresh pair of eyes, so proofreading will be more accurate, and a faster process.
Use Spell Check, but don’t rely on it solely. Spell Check knows a lot of things, but it gets easily confused with proper nouns, and many common usage errors. Spell Check should always be supplemented with an alert pair of human eyes.
Lay off the quotation marks and apostrophes. These errors are so easy to catch, but they still pop up everywhere. Entire blogs are devoted to quotation mark and apostrophe errors. Quotation marks shouldn’t be used unless you are quoting something. Otherwise they are read as a wink, an indicator that the word doesn’t actually mean what it does. This is the last mistake you want to make when marketing a product. Apostrophes should only be used as possessive. I’m always hesitant to go into any coffee shops that advertise their great “panini’s” and “latte’s.”
Know the accidents you’re prone to, and keep an extra eye out for them. The “E” button on my keyboard sticks sometimes, so I’m always extra cautious when I use it; I don’t want people thinking I’ve changed my name to Mily. Similarly, we all have our common mistakes. Here at EG, we’ve gotten pretty good at typing “entrepreneur,” but all those Es and Rs can slip a lot of people up. Are you ever tempted to slip an extra “C” into recommend? Are you in the bad habit of making “a lot” one word? Look at a guide to commonly
mispelled misspelled words to see if you’re guilty of any of these errors. Keep dictionary.com open in your web browser. Always look up “hors d’oeuvres,” because nobody knows how to spell it. Know your weaknesses and address them.
Get by with a little help from your friends. Two heads are better than one when it comes to most things in life. Grammar is no exception. Your friends don’t need to be geniuses to help you out. Often text may make sense in your head, simply because you’re the one who wrote it. An extra pair of eyes is great for improving clarity, eliminating redundancy, and catching common style errors.
Use the tricks of the trade. Sometimes you’re under deadline and there’s nobody available to proofread. The best way to catch your own errors is to read the text out loud to yourself. This is great for finding syntax errors and making sure your punctuation aligns with the natural stops and pauses of the text. Next, start at the end of the document and read each word. It’s easier to find spelling and usage errors this way, when you’re not distracted with the message of the text.
Good luck and happy proofreading!