It breaks my heart, every single time.
The public perception of journalism is often a poor one. People tend to think of pushy foot-in-the-door TV reporters berating dole bludgers and dodgy builders or tacky magazines making up stories about royal babies or fat-shaming celebrities. People don’t tend to think about Woodward and Bernstein exposing Watergate, or Boston Globe reporters whose story was so successfully turned into the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight.
But that’s not what’s breaking my heart. I’m used to that. What breaks my heart is something more self-inflicted, and it isn’t based on the public’s perception; it’s based on the public’s expectation.
I’m talking about the absolute basics — spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Bad spelling and grammar can cost you business
Not the high-end stuff. I think it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition if you want to. I mean the kind of stuff a subeditor, or a proofreader, used to fix; the simple things the public expects a newspaper to get right.
It seems every week someone I know is posting on Facebook or Twitter about a major spelling or grammatical mistake in the newspaper. And not just their “local rag” either, but major “papers of record”, too. One incorrect headline I saw recently said a man had been jailed for “dug offences”. Sometimes it can be far more embarrassing, like this one in the Toronto Star.
Newspapers are axing subeditors’ jobs left, right and centre. They’re seen as an expense; an outsourcing opportunity. Quality control is no longer important to management teams trying to save pennies in the face of dwindling advertising revenues. I understand that. But this is so, so dumb. And here’s why:
When you leave spelling mistakes in your copy, you’re damaging your credibility. People will respect you less. They will trust you less. They’re also jarring to the reader, who will focus on the silly mistake and might miss the important message you’re trying to share.
Always use a proofreader
This is not just true for newspapers and media organisations. It’s true for your business, too. Whether you’re creating a new menu, building a website, putting out a catalogue, or blogging five times a week as part of a content marketing strategy, it’s essential that everything you put out goes through a proofreader.
And it is not just about pleasing pernickety readers; experts say spelling mistakes can cost businesses millions. It makes sense: People are more likely to think your direct email is spam and ignore it if there’s a spelling error in the subject line; why would someone trust your ability to deliver on your services if you can’t even structure a grammatically correct welcome message on your website homepage?
The point here is that every written communication you put out into the world for general consumption should be carefully proofread because everything you put out reflects on your brand. That’s something newspapers used to know. And that’s the thing that breaks my heart. Don’t let your brand make the mistake so many newspapers are making.
If you’re keen to work with a content marketing team that uses a professional proofreader every single time, contact Lush Digital Media.
Like what you’ve read? Sign up to the Lush newsletter for fortnightly advice to help you market your business better, tips from our video production gurus, and a podcast or two from our favourite podcasting team, Brand Newsroom. In the meantime, you might enjoy these:
The secret to effective writing for business
How great copy beats competition and saves you money
The blogging blunders you need to avoid: Part 1
Brand Newsroom: How to deal with writer’s block