Last week, I received an email from a blog I subscribe to, one I’ve always regarded as highly professional. That opinion dipped somewhat when I saw the headline misusing the word “it’s.”
“5 Things [FORTUNE 50 COMPANY] is Doing to Improve It’s Image (That You Can Do, Too!)”
These master marketers had mistakenly used the contraction form of “it is” instead of the possessive form, which doesn’t take the apostrophe.
The rest of the article used the possessive pronoun correctly, but the headline still gave me that moment’s pause.
We’ll write more about the “its” vs. “it’s” debate later, likely many times over the course of this blog. The big lesson here is the need for proofreading. Even the most diligent among us can overlook a glaring error – especially when we’ve already reviewed the material a half dozen times or so. When you’re writing for public consumption, those glaring gaffes can cost you credibility.
Before you hit “send” or sign off on that brochure, have fresh eyes proofread for you. After a point, we become virtually useless when it comes to reviewing our own work – or a project with which we’ve been closely involved. We all know someone whose superior command of English grammar slips toward annoying. Take advantage of that person’s persnickety tendencies.
If it’s up to you and you alone, try this:
Step away from the words. Head to Starbucks. Go to lunch. Do something completely different and clear your head before you give a document the final once-over. Like driving, proofreading doesn’t mix well with distraction.
Print the document. We read differently on screen than on paper. It’s easier to catch mistakes on a hard copy.
Read the words out loud. This approach forces you to look at each word – no skimming. You might also find some rough patches that need help.
Check the details. Make a list of critical items like name spellings, addresses, telephone numbers, etc., and check it against the final document. (Someone close to me recently worked very hard on his company’s new business cards – only to discover the city name was misspelled in the final product.)
Sure, everyone makes mistakes. But in a business setting, those errors have the potential to flub your company’s first impression on a prospective client, employee or strategic partner. Do you really want to take that chance?