Simple, clear help for your writing problems

Spelling Errors

Spelling is the most curable of all writing problems. Still, Internet content is full of spelling errors. Many of these are understandable—almost forgivable. But for most spelling errors that turn up on the Internet, there is simply no excuse.

Forcing readers to wade through a mess to find the message may stop them in their tracks.

Even if you believe you have a good excuse for your writing problems, many readers aren’t forgiving.  In this day of automated, automatic spell-checking, leaving misspelled words in your content makes you look careless and ignorant. Forcing readers to wade through a mess to find the message may stop them in their tracks. Readers don’t notice when your writing is error-free, but you lose readers when it isn’t.

Forgivable Spelling Errors?

Are there really forgivable spelling errors? No. In the first paragraph I suggested there are spelling errors that are almost forgivable. And, if one of these appears in a 200 word article, picky readers may shrug and let it pass. However, when several almost forgivable writing problems appear in a single article, the transgressions become unforgivable.

I offer a short list of the types of spelling errors that are marginally forgivable:

Typos—It’s almost forgivable when a typing error results in the wrong—but properly-spelled—word. Picky readers sometimes nod and smile forgivingly when they spot these in your writing.

Sound-alike words—It’s almost forgivable when you use a word that sounds exactly like another word—but has a different spelling (these are homonyms, but you don’t need to know that). For example, you might accidentally write the word yore when you mean your, or flue when you mean flew. These spelling errors are usually the result of absentmindedness: you know the correct word, and are astonished when you recognize your mistake. Make one of these errors in your writing, and it annoys a picky reader. Make several such errors, and the picky reader disparages your work; you simply should not have published it.

Unforgivable Writing Problems

If there are spelling errors that are nearly forgivable, there are others at the other extreme. You deserve to lose readers for these misspellings: never misspell a name. Having trouble with names is understandable because so many familiar names have unusual—or multiple—spellings. It’s challenging to get them right as you create content. But misspelling a name is insulting to that which you name, and fans or familiars are likely to take offense.

Readers don’t notice when your writing is error-free, but you lose readers when it isn’t.

Consider: If I mention Stephen King in an article, but I spell his name Steven King, his massive fan base may write me off as an idiot. Mr. King, also, is likely to write me off… I don’t curry favor by botching his name. I can lose all my readers in the state of Missouri by spelling it Misury. I might turn away car enthusiasts if I mention the classic Lincon Continental… and Civil War enthusiasts along with historians might also click away.

The biggest loser spelling error of all is misspelling the name of a customer or a prospective customer. When I receive a marketing letter personalized with my name—misspelled—not only won’t I read the letter, I’ll blacklist the source. If you don’t care enough to get my name right, you obviously don’t care about customer relations.

Fix these Writing Problems

Whatever writing problems you have, you must stop making spelling errors! These are so easy to eliminate:

  • Always write in a robust word processor that has spell-checking capabilities.
  • Use the spell-checker; fix the errors it identifies.
  • When you use a name—whether a person’s name, the name of a team, the name of a place, or even the name of a horse, by gosh, make sure you spell it correctly. Look it up on line if you have even the slightest doubt.
  • Read your work. Read it out loud. Have you used a word that sounds like another word but has a different spelling? Make certain you’ve used the correct word. If you don’t know, look it up! My favorite on-line resource for this is yourdictionary.com, but even just typing the word in Google might save you some embarrassment.
  • Create a cheat sheet. All writers use words that won’t stick in their heads. For example, without assistance, I would misspell embarrassment… even though I’ve been aware of this problem for more than 30 years! If you constantly misuse your, you’re, and yore, add them to your cheat sheet, and stick it to your monitor so you never again make the mistake.
  • If you can’t correct your own spelling, despite the awesome technology at your disposal, get someone to read your work before you publish it. Please!

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Here are links to other articles about writing problems. Please have a look:

  • Comment on Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation ARE Important When … – It seems most people are not careful about the language of blogging. They feel that blogging can be profusely done with a lot of mistakes. I would like to point all users to one or two blog posts that teach you simple mistakes people …

  • Am I The Only One Affected By The Effects Of Grammar? » Literal … – A colleague was drafting a memo to send out company-wide today and forwarded it to me for review. The copy was mostly good, although he referenced several “servers that will be effected by ongoing work” or somesuch. …

  • how homonyms can hurt your writing – you’ve seen it before. you’re reading a perfectly good blog or book and there it is – right in the middle of the page, glaring at you like a neon sign. of course, writer that you are, your focus on whatever it is that you were reading …

 

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Every web content creator has writing problems. What separates good content from mediocre content is the writer who catches and fixes errors before committing the content to the web. In my last post, I explained a myriad of writing problems you can eliminate simply by reading an article before you post it. This post suggests five strategies you can employ to reduce the number of writing problems that plague your writing in the first place.

1: Use a Real Word Processor

So many on-line services provide text-entry capabilities through which you enter material: blog posts, articles, even comments about others’ posts. Don’t write web content in these web-based text-entry facilities; use a full-featured word processor.

Why? A word processor is chock full of cool features to help you produce top-notch material. Microsoft Word, for example, automatically identifies every word it doesn’t recognize. Usually, these are words you’ve misspelled. If you right-click on a highlighted word, the software suggests replacements. Most times, the list includes the word you meant to type, but spelled correctly.

Here are a few other reasons to write your web content in a word processor:

  • Many on-line posting systems lack the ability to save your work-in-progress; you must commit your work to the web to save it—a real pain if you get interrupted and want to finish a project later.
  • Sometimes you lose your internet connection. If this happens when you’re creating a post through a web-based editor, you may lose the entire entry.
  • On-line editors rarely (if ever) have grammar-checking capabilities. Robust word processors do. Again, Microsoft Word flags grammatical problems with your writing and suggests fixes when you right-click on highlighted phrases.
  • Full-featured word processors may have auto-correction and auto-completion features. These recognize common writing problems and fix them as you type. It’s pretty cool to see transposed characters jump into their correct places, and commonly misspelled words suddenly appear where a typo landed moments earlier.

So, use a real word processor, exploit its error-correcting capabilities and save often to your local hard drive. Copy your article to the web all-at-once only after you’ve written it, edited it, and read it!

2. Don’t trust grammar-checking software.

Often, a grammar-checker highlights things that may be problems… but the software doesn’t really know! Consider: If you use the word lets in a sentence, Microsoft Word’s grammar-checker will tell you that the correct word could be let’s—even when lets is, in fact, correct. So, consider what your grammar-checker tells you, but don’t get hung up on it; often you’re right and it’s only guessing.

3. Fact-check as you write.

Sure, you know your subject matter, but do you really know every fact you’re citing to make your point? Depending on my topic, I average two facts per article that I confirm through on-line research. It takes longer to write the article, but every factual error I publish diminishes my authority; I deserve to lose readers if I continually publish untruths… so I check things even when I’m confident they’re correct.

4. Reread your article after you make changes to it.

The whole point of reading your own article is to find and eliminate your writing problems. The very act of fixing a problem can introduce new problems. So, always read your article again after you make changes to it.

5. Here’s a killer: Reread your article after you publish it on the internet.

I’m not kidding. Usually, when moving an article from my word processor to my publishing platform on the web, I make some changes. I might add words to fill out lines, toss in some HTML for emphasis, or rearrange sections to accommodate illustrations or other elements. Even if I do none of these things, I reread my freshly-published articles. Writing problems I didn’t notice in the original copy sometimes jump out at me when I see an article on line. Go figure!

Here are some other articles to encourage you to read your work before you publish it:

  • Fear the publish button – I obviously want each and everyone of you to be better bloggers by reading this blog and for that I want you to think twice before pressing that evil publish button. Too many bloggers just press the publish button without even reading …

  • Ads That Suck » Even the big guys forget to proofread – Updated whenever it tickles my fancy to do so. I see typos in ads quite often, but they’re usually the little mom-and-pop, I-got-my-nephew-to-do-it sort of ads in the back of one of the many free daily newspapers in the city. But, every once in a while, even a major agency with a major client can make a stupid mistake.

  • Five Proofreading Tips That You Can Use Right Now By Yourself – Five Proofreading Tips That You Can Use Right Now By Yourself. February 23rd, 2007 · 14 Comments. I always chuckle to myself when I see the blog posts and forum posts to freelance writers recommending that they have someone else …

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