5 proofing hacks for your business

Your copy needs to be spot on if you’re going to impress. There’s a lot of competition out there, and while customers won’t always reward you for getting it right, they will punish you for silly errors.

That includes spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Since you don’t know who might be reading your words, it’s also important to fact-check and ensure your copy doesn’t break any laws.

That’s why I’m going to share my top 5 quick and easy proofing hacks to make sure you get it right.

  1. Grammarly

Grammarly is an essential free tool to download. It helps flag up any common errors in spelling and missing words, and is clever at spotting punctuation and grammar errors, even teaching you as you go! It installs on your browser, in MS Word and on your PC for use on many different platforms. Grammarly also offers a year-long premium option, providing even more fixes and a plagiarism checker.

  1. Spell checks

While it’s OK to use MS Word spellchecker, don’t rely on it. It misses many an obvious mistake, and there are plenty of free spell checkers on the Web. My favourite is on Google Docs. How often does Google correct your search results and know what you want? Well, the Google Docs spell checker checks your words against the plethora of information on the Web. That makes it good at spotting errors in references, names, place names and even some international words and phrasing in addition to the usual spelling mistakes.

  1. Plagiarism software

Ensure you don’t fall foul of plagiarism laws by always running your copy through a plagiarism scanner. Grammarly premium offers this service or you can find a free one on the Web, such as this from Small SEO Tools. If you reuse product descriptions or content from the Web, make sure you rewrite it so it’s 100% unique. Otherwise, your search rankings will be lowered and you could even face a copyright suit. A surefire way to avoid this is to pay a copywriter to write your content for you. They’ll get it spot on and you get copy tailored to your business’ needs.

  1. Oxford Dictionaries Online

Consult a dictionary. Yes, some things you can’t get a robot to do! But don’t dismiss these humble reference tools. Oxford Dictionaries Online has a vast store of UK, US and world dictionaries to check spellings, pronunciation, similar words (synonyms) and encyclopaedic entries for notable persons and events. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, start typing and it will pop up. This site is especially useful for showing you how to use a word or phrase in a sentence and different spellings for US or UK English. Sites like Wikipedia are also invaluable, but always check their sources before citing ‘facts’.

  1. PerfectIt

Go pro and invest in PerfectIt – proofreading software that has an add-in built for MS Word. This software can run many tests on your work, including commonly misspelt words, inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation, formatting errors, and you can even specify your preferred spellings and punctuation use. Plus, once you’ve paid, it never expires! Even better, you can also try before you buy with a 30-day free trial.

It’s best practice to run your copy through as many proofing tools as you can, to ensure your content is up to scratch.

A supplement not a substitute

However, this is not only a timely procedure, it also isn’t 100% effective. Unfortunately, robots can’t catch everything and, in some cases, they even make suggestions that are incorrect – causing potential embarrassment.

These tools are a supplement not a substitute for accurate proofreading and need to be used with caution. You’d be surprised what kind of obvious errors slip through these filters, which can cost you big business.

Get perfect, tailor-made copy

So to get it right first time, it’s best to employ a proofreader or professional copywriter to ensure you don’t make these costly errors.

If you work with me, we can come up with the best solution for your needs. Perhaps you simply need another pair of eyes to spot any errors, you already have some content you’d like rewriting, or you want some copy creating from scratch.

Contact me today and we’ll get across everything you need to say in the best way possible.

My Tip for Writing Sales Copy

The modern world is fluid: there are no longer strict times to work, to go shopping, to connect with people. This fluidity is even more dangerous to those who work freelance, especially if that’s from home. It can be difficult to switch off from the endless list of things that can be done at any one moment, causing constant distractions – some welcome, but most not.

One of the bonuses of being a professional copywriter is that clients give you work. However, if you write sales copy full time, there’s a significant chance that at some point you will experience that awful feeling of writing yourself into a corner full of clichés, and it can be a tiresome task trying not to recycle your own work.

But it was while I was tuning up my new TV that I made a career-defining discovery. When you can’t think of any more ways to sell that ugly pair of leather cowboy boots simply take my advice and…turn on the TV.

Yes, you heard me. Turn on the TV.

Switch straight to the home shopping channels – you’ll find you have plenty. And, for once in your life, that’s a good thing.

Watching the endless hours of furious waffling will give you a crash course in how to sell. Home shopping channels are divided into hour-long slots where a presenter is challenged to shift as many units as possible, as though trying to bargain their way out of a hostage scenario. Often they have a whole range to peddle, but the real feats of salesmanship are the solus endorsements.

As the minutes tick away, the programme swiftly descends into farce as the host becomes desperate to snag that potential customer. It’s true. I have actually seen, with my own eyes, a frantic presenter furiously force the backstage crew to fashion a pet fish out of a carrot and a bowl of water, just to show off a panoramic camera.

But the highs (and the many lows) of this kind of television are invaluable to the ‘blocked’ copywriter.

As you sit there in your be-throned armchair, all smug in your new position as the ‘potential customer’, you can see what works – Wow, that mobile really does look like it has everything I want and at such a reasonable price – and what doesn’t – Hmm, I’d rather take memorable photographs of my grandchildren than my goldfish.

As we all know, one of the most important things in copywriting is selling the experience. And that is what these guys (usually) do so well.

To gain your trust, the presenter will start out with the product specifications – the brand, the quality materials, the craftsmanship – but before you know it they’ve segwayed these indisputable facts into the ways that this product will make your life easier, more efficient, and, in turn, make you a better person/worker/mother/friend.

The sole point of the programme is just like a piece of sales copy – it is to build a gradual argument for why this specific product will change your life, and by the end, even the most dismissive viewer can’t help but agree with everything they’ve just said. Except for maybe that bit about the fish.

Of course, I’m not saying this little technique is without its risks. Turning on the TV while you’re trying to work does, after all, take a lot of stamina, mostly to not let yourself get sucked in by Pointless or Bargain Hunt (I’m not judging). But, if you’re stuck on the roundabout of sales clichés, there are worse things you can do than switch to the home shopping channels. And besides, all that red-faced shouting and carrot-bobbing means they can be pretty fun too…