Why you should proofread your glob

We get it. You’re not a proofreader. Who cares about a few mistakes here and there? People will keep reading, right? Wong.

Appearance isn’t everything, but it is important. In one word, appearance is credibility. And that’s why you have to proofread.

Picture of Appearences salon. Yes, the misspelling is intentional.

The picture above shows a salon near me called Appearances or, sorry, “Appearences.” They previously had it spelled right on their door and wrong on an awning above the door. Then, they renovated. Now it’s obvious—they must’ve spelled the name wrong when they named the company. Yikes.

Proofreading is part of the job

Think of proofreading like getting dressed for a job interview. Every typo is a spot of coffee on your white shirt. And just like some people need help picking out the right outfit, some people need someone else to proofread their work.

Would you hire someone who comes to an interview with his shirt half tucked and a stain dribbling down his tie? No.

Keep that in mind because most people don’t want to read a blog, an article, a book or anything with obvious (preventable) mistakes.

Common mistakes to look out for:

Loose – something wobbly, not tight. Things come loose. Loose is an adjective, not a verb.

Lose – opposite of win and find. You lose games and items. Lose is a verb.

Advise – to counsel or suggest. Advise your child to go to college. It’s a verb.

Advice – words of direction or encouragement. You give advice. Advice is a noun.

Affect – to impact in some way. This is usually a verb. The noun has more to do with observable emotion.

Effect – a result of something happening, usually a noun. Can be used as a verb meaning to bring about, as in to effect change.

Assure – you assure people to make them feel better. I assure you this is true.

Insure – think insurance here. Insure is used to indicate protecting someone or something from financial liability.

Ensure – to make certain of something, to guarantee.

Example: I assure you our SWAT team will ensure the safety of the hostages, but it’s too late to insure the bank against any building damages if they’re not covered already.

Sloppy sends people away

In the print world, mistakes can be costly. Fixing errors at the printer results in extra charges. Obviously, online is different, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to relax your standards. Sloppy writing is great incentive for readers to bounce.

Spell check is knot your friend

Spell check is a grate tool. It catches sew many mistakes, ewe don’t really have too proof reed at all.

Get it? Don’t rely on spell check or you’ll have sentences like the above.

Grammar guidelines

In blogs, in my opinion, grammar is up to you. Writing, depending on your topic, is all about voice. It’s perfectly okay to not follow all grammar rules. In marketing, in books, and in blogs, that’s called style. Just make sure your style is readable and isn’t horrendously bad grammar.

Proofreading basics

Proofreading is not easy. Great proofreaders seem to have been born with a knack for it. I have worked as a proofreader, copy editor and writer, but I don’t like proofing my own work because I miss things. The closer you are to your material, the worse you are at proofreading it.

So, have a system. To start, you can follow these basic steps.

  1. Read through it once to make sure the words flow. In fact, read it out loud. Your ear will catch things your eyes don’t.
  2. Look at each word line by line. Reading lines from the bottom up is a good idea, especially if you know the material too well.
  3. Run spell check and see what pops up. Remember this isn’t foolproof. It’s merely one step.

If you’re still not confident with your proofreading skills, get someone else to proofread for you.

*****************

Good luck! Here are some fantastic resources to help. Grammar Girl breaks grammar rules into helpful hints that are easy to understand. Yahoo’s style guide covers more than proofreading and can help you with web writing, SEO and more.

Letter perfect: How VW can learn from the Y

Something has been bugging me lately, and maybe it’s been bugging you too. Volkswagen has been airing commercials that are ruining a good thing—the Punch Buggy game.

They would be good commercials, except for one thing—VW is changing the game. The game is known as Punch Buggy or SlugBug, and has been played by people across the globe for decades. (Check out Google results for Punch Buggy rules.)

The first person who spots a VW Beetle (also known as a VW Bug) punches the person next to him, saying “Punch buggy red!” for example, if it’s a red Beetle.

Volkswagen now is trying to change the game that fans have loved for so long. Any VW passes by and one guy hits the next saying, “Red one!”

Wrong—all wrong!

They could learn a few lessons from the YMCA, who recently announced a name change to simply “the Y.” Why did they do it? Because that’s what people who use their facilities call it.

No one, or at least very few people, say “YMCA.” We all just call it “the Y.” And even the not-for-profit Y knows smart marketing when they hear it.

As for VW, only two reasons can explain the gross misinterpretation of the Punch Buggy game:

  1. They don’t know their own brand and/or don’t understand how the game is played.
  2. They are trying to get people to play the game with all VW cars.

The sad part is, number one is not true. But stupidity would be preferable to the arrogance of a brand trying to takeover such an established fan game.

VW calls this new game “PunchDub” and ties it into their tagline by saying “With 13 different models it’s a whole new Volkswagen and a whole new game.”

It is. And it’s called trying to manipulate the crowd into helping Volkswagen turn a profit in the U.S. after eight straight years of loss.

A smarter move would’ve been to use the real Punch Buggy game to get people’s attention first. Offer something creative with fan participation that has a chance of going viral (like Ford’s Fiesta Movement).

Build trust, build buzz, and then start finding new ways to get those people interested in all your 13 different models.

Maybe someone in charge at VW should talk to Kate Coleman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Y. She can tell you that listening to (and respecting) your customers is “…a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming.”

Don’t you think that sounds like a recipe for a good brand?

Why you should care how people share

Earlier this year, my friend, Paul, won a trip to Cancun from a local radio station. The DJ announced his name and he had about 15 minutes to call in to win. But he wasn’t listening. He never heard his name.

So, how did he win?

Complete strangers called him. They tracked down his phone number online and called to tell him his name was drawn.

People like to share. Social media has increased the frequency and reach of sharing.

Every business and organization now has a responsibility to:

  • Give people something good (product or service) to share
  • Make it easy to spread the word

It’s just good business.

Innovate new ways to share

Kodak knows that everyone loves to share pictures, so what did they do? They put a share button right on the camera. The commercial does make it seem more convenient and cool than it really is (you still need a computer), but it’s a step in the right direction.

People love to share good news

The other day, my friend, Bechara, told me his product, Bagel Spice got picked up by Whole Foods. I was so excited for him I couldn’t wait to tell people.

The product is delicious, but if it wasn’t, I still would’ve been excited for him. I just wouldn’t be telling anyone to go buy it.

Twitter is another example. That was built for sharing. Like the other day, I saw this tweet:

Tweet from Spinners Bikes saying they had appointments available

I retweeted it. I have no connection to Spinners Bikes, but I do love biking. I know a mobile bike maintenance service that comes right to you can be quite handy when you need a quick fix for your bike. So, I passed it along. And Spinners thanked me right away—again, good business.

Customer as advertiser

Sharing is not a new concept. Remember the old Faberge shampoo ads? “I told two friends and they told two friends, and so on and so on.

They’re talking about word-of-mouth advertising. But today is different. With so many websites built to help people share, even casual customers are sharing like never before.

Beware: Bad news travels faster

Don’t forget, people love to share bad news too. And they can do so right from their mobile phones. Give bad service, and that one customer will tell everyone they know—right away. And the story will probably get worse and worse each time he, she or someone else tells it.

Decide which side you want to be on (the good side, of course) and do everything you can to stay there.

***************

I’d now like to share the website/blog of the first person who really welcomed me to Twitter when I first joined. His name is Tim Scullin, and he definitely knows how to share. Another person I know who embodies the spirit of sharing and shares some great information is Danny Brown. And if you like what you see, please pass it along.

Poise with a capital pee

What makes a great spokesperson? Poise, resonance, relatability….sure. Even better though is bravery.

I started thinking about this months ago, when Sarah Evans (@PRsarahevans) asked who the ultimate spokesperson is.

My first thought was Michael Jordan—when he was with the Chicago Bulls. Every company wanted MJ to endorse its product. He set the bar on million-dollar endorsements for every sports star that followed—and follows still.

My next thought drifted to Dennis Haysbert and stayed there for a while. Haysbert played the President on television’s 24 and seemed to carry the weight of that role with him into his Allstate ads.

His deep voice and calm, steady mannerisms exude trust and integrity. He makes me want to buy Allstate insurance. And that is the point, after all. So I thought he was the ultimate spokesperson.

But now I’ve changed my mind, and I finally have my answer—Whoopi Goldberg is the ultimate spokesperson.

Sure, she may not be the most famous, the most liked or the most glamorous, but she is the bravest. Who else would’ve felt comfortable enough to admit that they leak pee?

Whoopi is the commercial spokesperson for Poise pads. She puts a very public face to a very private problem many people (1 in 3 women) have. And she does it with humor.

The theme here is that if a celebrity can talk about it, then maybe regular people will start talking about it. That 1 in 3 women statistic means our friends and family members struggle with it but don’t say a word. What’s worse is a reported 40% of women with bladder leakage don’t tell their doctors.

Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Poise pads, hopes Whoopi will change that. And for the sake of women everywhere, I hope so too. In fact, maybe she’ll encourage other celebrities to come forward for other health problems.

From product endorsements to public service announcements, well-known people sharing their real-life experiences could be just what we need to make others talk about and get help for serious issues. Think of the difference that could be made by talking about bipolar depression, anxiety and suicide.

Whoopi is taking the shame away from bladder leakage, and she could be setting a trend for other celebrities to follow.

For that, she is my ultimate spokesperson. Who can argue with that?