Most people have seen this floating around the internet:
Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in its weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
So it’s clear that spell check can only take you so far.
Sending out error-laden communication, whether it’s a formal report or just a casual email, brands you as someone who doesn’t take the time to cover the little things. Sloppy. Unprofessional. Worse, it could make you a candidate for one of those autocorrect fail websites.
So before you hit “send,” following are some tips to help you take one more look to make sure your communiqué is letter perfect.
While you probably aren’t going to use all these steps for every short email, most of them take just a few seconds and can make a huge difference in ensuring polished prose.
- Check the it’s/its and there/they’re/theirs. This is a common problem that just makes you look lazy or ignorant when you choose the wrong one.
- Ditto the plural vs. possessive; as in computers/computer’s. Is there more than one computer (computers) or does something belong to the computer (computer’s keyboard)? It is shocking how frequently people get this wrong.
- Check your usage of little words to make sure you are using the right one: or/of; of/off; the/they; is/it/in; you/your.
- Recognize your own personal shortcomings, in addition to the three above, whether it’s misplaced caps, punctuation goofs or words like complement/compliment or principal/principle.
- Read the copy out loud. It’s a great way to make sure you aren’t missing any words.
- Back to spell check snafus, recognize words that ARE words but that you don’t want in your copy. For example, I work in public relations and you wouldn’t believe how many resumes I have seen from candidates who are interested in a job in “close-to-public-but-missing-the-l relations.” Straight to the recycle!
- Is it super important? Print it out. Sorry, trees, but looking at printed text is the best way to make sure you have all your words and spacing correct.
- Really don’t want to waste paper? Enlarge the font on your screen. Errors in 32 point type will literally jump out at you.
- Let it sit. If possible, take some time (overnight is best!) and then return to review one final time before sending.
- And I saved the best tip for last: have someone else read it. Works every time!
One bonus tip if you are texting or emailing on your smartphone: Always, always read through before you hit send to make sure that autocorrect, with its incredibly random substitutions, hasn’t inadvertently changed your message to something you didn’t mean!
What are your best tips for error-free copy?
For further reading, I direct you to an amazing website and book developed by my “heroes” (or as some would erroneously call them, my “hero’s.” (see Tip 2). Visit “The Great Typo Hunt” for background on their quest to eradicate the world of typos… one at a time!
by Cathie Ericson