Category Archives: Editing

Please hire a proofreader

I just made this comment on a Mashable article  (sure, it was clickbait, but Mashable is a more reputable source than some, and I expect more from them):

Please hire a proofreader.

I find myself saying this in my head a lot lately. I don’t usually post any comments about it (posting comments online is perhaps one of the biggest wastes of time and energy one could indulge in), but this morning I had a weak moment. But Mashable isn’t alone. Companies and organizations that present themselves as professional no longer seem to have editorial oversight or any sort of quality assurance.

Here are a couple of local examples: Boston.com and Bostonology. Boston.com has turned into an editor’s nightmare. The writing is poor and the site is rife with typos. (The layout and overall user experience are not a picnic either.) I used to read the site regularly, but now I cringe whenever I look at it. I had recently subscribed to Bostonology‘s emails and eventually unsubscribed because every single email I read had multiple typos and the content was often poorly written and structured. As a Bostonian, I love the concept of this email subscription, but I was so distracted by the lack of quality that I couldn’t read it anymore.

The Mashable article I read today had at least two typos in the introduction (one in the first sentence) and a duplicate screenshot in the body copy. People will say I am a stickler (and I am), but there are three main reasons (other than having pride in your work product) why typos, missing words, and poorly structured content matter:

  1. They are distracting. Readers who notice these issues (and there are many of us) are thrown off from the point of the article and may stop reading and go elsewhere. So you might get our click-throughs, but you won’t get return visits and you won’t get conversions (“likes” or subscriptions, etc.) We certainly won’t continue clicking around your website to read more content.
  2. They make you look unprofessional. Clients, customers, readers, and would-be partners could decide not to do business with you or buy your product because it looks like you do not care about quality.
  3. They make you look untrustworthy. If your content is sloppy, readers won’t trust you. They’ll assume you did not do your research since you didn’t bother to review the information you’ve presented.

Please hire a proofreader. Readers and customers everywhere will thank you.

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Five Social Media Don’ts

Photo courtesy of Muffet

Photo courtesy of Muffet

There are numerous social media no-nos being commited daily by people and organizations that should know better. Here are five mistakes I’ve been seeing frequently as of late.

1. Tweeting links to content users can’t access: The Boston Globe is a good example of this. They have enforced their paywall even for the content they promote via Twitter (which means they don’t really want you to read–they only want you to subscribe).  So users click on tweets only to be taken to a message (sometimes with a short summary of the article, sometimes not) that basically tells them to subscribe. This is  a bait and switch, and a social media FAIL. (It also needlessly costs the Globe retweets and favorites.) The Globe should look to the example of  The New York Times. When the Times promotes an article via Twitter, any of their followers can read it, whether they are subscribers or not. You can’t click around and read everything after you come to their site via social, but you can read the article that they have promoted, which is how it should be! If you for some reason absolutely must tweet subscribers-only content, at least have the courtesy to warn your followers in your tweet that the link is restricted.

2. Asking for retweets. The begging for retweets has got to stop. Kellogg’s UK recently tweeted the worst kind of retweet request–one that seemed to use vulnerable people as a cause for brand promotion. But aside from that example, I see people begging others to retweet them (“Like it? Please RT!”) on every single tweet. The thing is, studies have shown that asking for retweets works. So it’s tempting. But it’s a trick that I suspect wears off, as users tire of your begging and eventually stop heeding your every demand to retweet. I follow a few business folks on Twitter who ask for a RT on every single tweet. I’m so tired of seeing it that I don’t even consider RTing them. If your content is good, followers WILL retweet. Let your work speak for itself.

3. Sharing information without checking its accuracy first. Facebook users, I’m looking at you (although other social media users are not immune). I have seen the same articles circulate on Facebook for months and years, and people mindlessly share without checking to see if they are sharing misinformation. The perfect example? This charity post that you see this time every year. It tells you not to give to Unicef, United Way, Red Cross, etc. *Some* of the information is correct, but *most* of it is not. A quick fact check is all you need. (Snopes, as shown in the previous link, is always a good start, as they’ve been investigating and collecting these posts since 1995)  Take this extra step to ensure you don’t a) share misinformation or b) make yourself look foolish.

4. Not proofreading your content, especially on LinkedIn. I belong to several groups on LinkedIn, and I can’t tell you how many times people post to groups and to their profiles without checking their spelling and grammar. And there is simply no excuse for a poorly written summary on your LinkedIn profile! Remember that potential employers are on LinkedIn, and you should always review your content with that in mind before you post.

5. Posting ridiculously long videos and podcasts. I’ve noticed that some of the so-called professional videos on YouTube and podcasts on iTunes clearly were done without any outlines, script, or rehearsals.  It’s fine to have an hour-long podcast if the content is compelling, but if your audience is watching or listening to a lot of “ums” or “what do I want to talk about next?”, you are wasting their time and you may very well lose followers and subscribers. Before you share your multimedia content with the world, think it through. What is your main point? What are the most important pieces of information that you want your audience to take away from your content? Write a script or, if that feels like overkill, make an outline of what you would like to cover. Be concise, clear, and ask yourself, is this a podcast or video I would want to listen to or watch?

For more social media tips, download our ebook, The Little Book of Social Media,  or get the Kindle version.

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Disaster Planning for Editors Part II

Web Editors

In last month’s post, I reviewed some of the ways editors can prepare for natural (or national) disasters. This month, let’s take a look at disasters of a very different kind.

Public relations disasters
Public relations disasters are, of course, on a far smaller scale than acts of war or mother nature. PR disasters don’t cause loss of life, but they do cause loss of business, reputation, and possibly revenue. A PR disaster might be a precipitous drop in your company’s stock price, the resignation of a CEO, or a scathing customer review that goes viral. Here are some ways you can prepare ahead of time so when disaster strikes, you’ll be able to react quickly:

  • Think through scenarios. List some scenarios that are likely to happen to your company. Some examples might be: Your company stock sinks; your CEO, owner, or president resigns; stockholders complain about…

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Disaster Planning for Editors, Part I

This is my latest post over on the Web Editors Blog. More to come in August!

Web Editors

When you think about disasters, you probably think of hurricanes, earthquakes, or acts of terrorism. You probably don’t think of editing! But those of us who edit websites, applications, and social media should have a strategy for when disaster strikes.

If you live in an area that’s prone to weather events or earthquakes, you probably already know what you’re supposed to do to protect yourself. You should have a first aid kit and potable water, food for your family and pets, etc. If disaster hits when you’re at work, you likely know where you are supposed to go if your building is evacuated. But what if the disaster takes down your servers or makes your website incredibly slow? Your IT department probably has a plan for data recovery and server backup, but do you have a plan for communicating with your customers?

Here are some ways you can help your…

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The Agile Editor

Web Editors

If you’re a web editor, you might already work in a company that practices agile software development. But even if your company or your clients haven’t made the transition to agile, they probably will. Agile has been increasing in popularity over the past few years, so it’s a good idea to have an understanding of how agile works and how you can champion content and editorial best practices within this new framework.

What is agile development?
Basically, agile is a faster and more flexible way of managing software and web development projects. Traditional software development involves a “waterfall” approach, with defined phases that move from one to another without overlap: from requirements gathering to design to development to testing to launch. In waterfall, project phases tend to happen in silos (development does not involve feedback from designers, etc.) and can take a considerably long time. And requirements usually can’t…

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