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Proof Read Everything You Publish – Then Proof It Again

with 15 comments

By Skip Cohen

I’ve had a series of communication challenges with typos and mistakes the last few weeks. I was never an “A” student in English, but at this point in my life I sure do have respect for all those English teachers I drove to the edge of nervous breakdowns. And yes, this is that moment where I realize I wish I had paid attention a little more, but don’t tell Mrs. Sabo I said that.

Many of you are going to be writing copy for brochures, websites and mail blasts. It seems very timely to publish a reminder on proof-reading. I know and respect you’re all photographers and artists first, but if you’re trying to communicate via the printed word then take the time to use a few of the tools out there that will at least help you be understood a little better.

Yesterday I was on four websites and each one was a disaster. I contacted the photographers directly, and will spare them the embarrassment, but the mistakes were amazing. I’m no Hemmingway and certainly make my share of mistakes, but I’m amazed at material being published that simply can’t be understood.

So, here are some tips I’ve found really helpful.

1) Read it out loud. You’ll often catch mistakes simply by hearing them.

2) Use spell check!

3) Read it one more time and pay attention to homonyms that spell check won’t pick up – words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, e.g. to, two, too or its and it’s, seem to be the words violated the most.

4) It won’t kill you to put in a paragraph break now and then. From There are a few standard times to make a new paragraph:

* When you start in on a new topic
* When you skip to a new time
* When you skip to a new place
* When a new person begins to speak
* When you want to produce a dramatic effect

5) Cut down on the use of the word “that” – we all kill the word, but it takes practice to cut it out of a sentence now and then. However, your thoughts will flow so much smoother with a few less “thats”.

6)  Whenever possible have somebody else read what you’re about to publish before you put it out there.

7) If you’re about to publish something really important to you, hold it 24 hours and then go back and read it one last time, before publishing.  You’ll be surprised at how often things sound differently.

The last thing I’m trying to do is sound like the English teacher from Hell, but so many of you are so talented with a camera in your hand. It’s so sad when your description about the process and work you put into an image can’t be understood!


Written by scottbourne

April 22, 2010 at 10:33 am

Posted in Marketing

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15 Responses

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  1. Thank you for publishing this; typos (typographical errors) are a pet peeve of mine. I hate making them, and I hate reading them in other photo blogs. I try not to be an obnoxious pedant about it, but sometimes I skip reading because of the inedible goulash of incorrect word use, grammatical butchering, punctuational faux pas and typos.

    “The Smith family? There in they’re house, over their.”

    Edie Howe

    April 22, 2010 at 11:47 am

  2. Great post! I am definitely not perfect, but I spent some time as an English teacher & work hard at proofreading what I write. We have become so dependent on spell check, but that doesn’t take into consideration spelling mistakes that create other words. Thanks for putting this out there. Also, you spelled Hemingway wrong. 🙂


    April 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

  3. Use spell check, yes, but don’t trust it. I used to publish a newspaper and we once had a column titled, “Pubic Notices.” Passed spell check OK. So did another papers ad for “hamburgers and French fires.”


    April 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

  4. Brilliant post! Just to add my favourite method of proof reading is to read the writing from the end backwards to the beginning. I think our brains make corrections for us if a word in a sentence is wrong, especially if it is the author doing the proof reading. Reading the text out of order helps the errors to jump out! Thank you for sharing your world.


    April 22, 2010 at 5:03 pm

  5. Great post! At the very least, people should run a spell check before publishing or printing their work. After all, it comes standard on most word processing software today. A simple three minutes to go through all of the potential errors that the spell checker will catch will save you from ultimately looking like a lazy idiot.

  6. And I’m going to add: Never use the word “but” as it completely invalidates everything that happened before it. For instance:

    “You look great, but your hair is a mess.” translates into “messy hair is keeping you from looking great.”

    Instead, substitute an “and” for every “but” and discovery the difference!

    “You look great and your hair is a mess!” translates to “Even messy hair doesn’t ruin your good looks.”

    Try it and see for yourselves…

    Jeff Jochum

    April 22, 2010 at 5:11 pm

  7. Hemingway spells with one M. ;-
    Otherwise great post, seriously!
    I love the blog!


    April 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm

  8. Yes, I remember a full page, full color ad in Popular Photography placed by Honeywell Photographic. So, the company’s name was large — but spelled “Honewell!” Yes, I was one of many who reviewed the ad, including an ad agency (again with many people involved.) Look carefully at your company name and phone number!!!

    David Larsen

    April 22, 2010 at 6:00 pm

  9. Love this post! I am a total typo freak. I hate it when I make them and I hate seeing them on any professional document, website or billboard. In fact, yesterday I drove past a billboard that read “Come try are pizza… it’s the best!”

    Are! Not our, but Are! Good Post!

    Shauna Harris

    April 23, 2010 at 7:25 am

  10. Jeff Jochum says: 2010/04/22 at 5:11 pm And I’m going to add: Never use the word “but” as it completely invalidates everything that happened before it. For instance:
    “You look great, but your hair is a mess.”…

    I would say, “Even though your hair is a mess, you look great!” “Yeah, just marvelous and gorgeous”

    The last thing you say is usually remembered first. And Another variation, not using the word “and”.

    John Erdovegi

    April 23, 2010 at 7:45 am

  11. Awesome post! I am inspired!


    April 23, 2010 at 8:40 am

  12. I run almost everything past my husband and my sister. The two of them are wonderful at catching things for me.

    Ruth anne Baker

    April 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

  13. I agree completely. One thing that I’ve been noticing lately is that while the volume of content on the web is increasing at an astonishing rate, the quality of the writing is decreasing even more quickly.

    I’ve seen more articles than I can count that make me wonder whether or not the author managed to graduate from high school, as in mistaking “loose” for “lose” (consistently), consistently using the incorrect homonym like “their” and “they’re” and “there” and, well, the list goes one.

    Another common failure in writing that I find rather irksome is that a lot of writers use passive voice too frequently. It undermines their prose.

    Rakesh Malik

    April 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm

  14. I’ve had great luck with using the wordpress plugin by Automattic called after the deadline, It catches most everything


    May 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm

  15. i agree that professional communications should be accurately constructed – unless you are making a consistent exception because of a style quirk (hence my lack of caps & certain punctuation)

    …but you might like to know that your ‘comments’ page (accessible from the top menu) has a spelling mistake: privilege doesn’t have a ‘d’



    May 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

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