Amy Moczynski / Digital Marketing / August 17th, 2012

Hey Marketers, You're Journalists, Too (Part Two)

I’m the first to admit I am not the best copy editor in the world. Yes, I have professional experience in editing. However, I realize my biggest faults reside in punctuation. I hate commas. There, I said it. When one misused comma can lead to five points off an assignment, you’d hate them too. I also have a mild hatred toward the semicolon and colon, but that’s another story.

I’ve been known to type too quickly and edit far too briefly before sending content over to a client to review or a blogger to publish. I go into this second part of my post with Dr. Ronald Rodgers, associate professor at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, not as someone looking to judge, but instead as a marketer who realizes I also need to hone my craft.

As marketers, we need to be cognizant of the importance of accuracy. Remember those 50-point fact errors I talked about in my first post? You should impose similar standards of accuracy for anything you write.

Dr. Rodgers said the biggest cause of errors in online writing is the fact that everything now is instant. Writers have to not only write their content accurately, but they also have to do so quickly. This can lead to increased errors, both grammatically and factually. In addition to tighter deadlines, writers are editing their own content more frequently, even if they work at traditional news outlets.

“The editors who look for grammar mistakes and style mistakes are going away,” Dr. Rodgers said. “It’s incumbent for writers to be much better at that.”

You can’t create content and expect someone else to edit and fact check for you. If you are expecting some whimsical editing genie to appear once you place your blog post in queue before publication, you’re in for a rude awakening. Anything you write needs to be reviewed for grammar and factual accuracy. Imagine the aftermath if you spelled a product’s name wrong or included incorrect information about a warranty. You’d have more than just readers to answer to.

Dr. Rodgers explained that a lack of quality editing can decrease a publication’s credibility. Errors like grammar mistakes or spelling a name incorrectly may seem like small matters, but over time they harm the publication’s (or business’s) legitimacy. It can also hurt your marketing campaign because if you’re known for sloppy writing or providing inaccurate information, you’ll have a difficult time getting content published.

How can you better ensure you won’t fall victim to mistakes that could negatively hurt your business or even cost you a client relationship? Follow these tips Dr. Rodgers offers for anyone who writes without relying on a copy desk or editor:

Hone up on your style. Do some research to see what writing style your company (or the blog you’re pitching) uses. If it’s a quality website, there should be some type of writing style used. When you’re pitching a blog, ask the blog owner what style they follow. If they care about their content, they’ll be able to give you a solid answer.

Hone up on your grammar and punctuation. This doesn’t just apply to marketers. Everyone dealing with a client (or writing things on behalf of your company) should have a firm grasp of proper grammar and punctuation. People will judge you if you don’t understand the proper way to use “there,” “their” and “they’re.” Also, would you want someone representing you if they can’t spell your company’s name correctly?

Set deadlines before the real deadlines. Allow yourself extra time to edit the content carefully before you publish it on your website or send over for someone else to review. To try and catch errors, I go through articles line by line from the last sentence to the first. You’d be surprised how much you glance over when your mind gets used to reading the same content multiple times.

Find another set of eyes. If possible, ask someone else to review your copy. Make sure it’s someone who has a good writing background. You’ll find out pretty quickly who you can trust to review a story and who you can’t.

Research your subject before you get started. Have a baseline of knowledge before you start writing. Know some information about your subject matter and the industry so you aren’t writing completely blind. You’ll be less likely to make factual errors if you have a clear understanding of what you’re writing about.

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