So, how come I see errors by editors and proofreaders?

Typo3Ok, so we all know that you go to an editor to work magic with your words, tighten you tables and add pzazz to your paragraphs. But you pop along to a blog, twitter or another piece of writing …and what’s that? A typo!

Yup. It’s there, shouting at you. “HellooooOOoooo! Got this one wrong didn’t you?” Cue flashing neon lights and dancing girls skipping across the screen.

Well, it’s not surprising really, after all we are only human.

Only Human

When you hire an editor, or a proofreader, we spend our time lovingly wandering through your copy. Armed with lovely coloured pens and a pencil or two, or sitting in front of the screen (probably still clutching the coloured pen as a comfort blanket), we switch on our “editing brain” and the magic happens. Words are evaluated, sentences tweaked, typos blitzed…piece by piece the copy starts to sparkle.

Until of course we come to our own writing. We try to avoid errors, but like every good editor knows, writers need editors…and once we cross the line, the writer part of the brain takes over. It’s a well known fact that the longer you work on a piece of your own writing, the closer you get to it, the less you see. You become used to the words on the page, you gloss over the odd error and the brain sees what it wants to see. Eventually, you will have re-read the piece so often that you miss the, sometimes glaring, errors. Heck, we’ve all seen those sentences doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook –  misplaced strings of words saying something along the lines of “if you can read all this jumbled up nonsense you are either hyper-intelligent or a superhero”.

It’s probably a little known fact (the non-scientific fact acquired by talking to people) that writing can bring editors out in cold sweats at times. You prepare a little article, read it…read it again…then re-read it. There’s a typo in there, there’s bound to be. In our profession we know that the spell checker doesn’t pick everything up, (and we know that it’s our reputation on the line)…so we read it again. It’s fine, we’re fine…we will not show ourselves up. Then BINGO! as soon as you thrust your writing out into the world there is it, quietly winking at you from the page or the screen.

old typewriter

So, next time you read something written by an editor, or a proofreader, and there’s an error, or a typo or a mis-aligned paragraph…smile your secret smile, lean back in your chair and heave a sigh of relief…yes…editors and proofreaders are human too!

*disclaimer* There’s bound to be a typo in here…there is just BOUND to be!

So why do businesses need an editor anyway?

Why?

Editors don’t just work on books and magazines…oh no…anything that can be read needs an editor or a proofreader. Yes, even businesses benefit from that extra set of eyes. Your business publications, website, business flyers and advertising materials attract people to you and your services. Don’t you want to make the best impression possible?

I know it can all be very mysterious…and yes, there are different types of editor, but basically we read through your stuff to make sure it looks and reads right.

An editor, amongst other things, ensures that:

  • BookYour publications are set out the way you want them – keeping things consistent and in the style that you like, one that will speak to your audience in the language of your company. Yes, I can be very chatty and informal, and that’s the way I like it…but if you’re a lawyer or a plumber you will want a different voice.
  • Your information is correct and consistent – for example, you don’t want to have one piece of contact information on one page of your brochure, then a completely different one on another page. Or, heaven forbid, forget to actually put contact details on your publications!
  • Your material reads well and says what you want it to say. Not everyone is a Word Wizard after all.

          and…

  • Your publications aren’t littered with embarrassing typos.

Whoops!

Ooooh yes, typos. We’ve all seen them, those cringingly bad typos that don’t just involve misplaced apostrophes, but are enough to make you suck the air through your teeth and grimace (just me then?).  The recent one I saw on Twitter, for example, springs to mind…Tesco offering money off deserts – don’t think even with money off I could afford more land at the moment.

If you type in “advertising typos” on Google (or your favourite generic search engine), you’ll find enough websites to keep you happy for hours…unless of course one of your business’s typos appears there! Can you imagine? How embarrassing! Yes, I know the old adage there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but …yes…there is.

For a bit of light relief (I know…the thought of your business and typos can bring you out in a cold sweat) here are a few instances of bad typos courtesy of the Guardian.

Mind you, it’s great publicity for the author of the new book…now why didn’t I think of that? Well done Mr Moir!

ScreamBut it’s not all huge, scream at you from the page, typos that get you going viral on Facebook, or appearing in a book on typos, that can cause grief…there are the little ones that can still cost you to put right. A spell checker won’t pick up those words that are actually words, but shouldn’t be there in your copy. Your “Fact Checker” can become a “Fat Checker” and slide past without being noticed, but an editor or proofreader will spot it.  And you Public services can become…well… let’s leave that one right there.

Street names are a good example of something that is all too easily messed up…there are quite a few instances I’ve noticed locally where the name “Princes St” is spelt “Princess St” and not just on printed leaflets…but on those adverts that rotate on the TV in the Post Office. A typo showing up every five minutes for all to see. Yes, the business will still get custom, and locals know there is no Princess St, but not everyone is local and …well…it’s just embarrassing isn’t it?

While writing up this piece I came across a good blog by the Grammar Girl on funny typos…well worth a visit for a giggle.

Lorem IpsumFinally…an editor can make sure that you don’t leave in dummy text….yes, it can happen. You pop in a little Lorem Ipsum… you know that dummy text that’s used to help designers with their page layout… and you forget to take it out. You’d be surprised how often it’s left in documents and websites. I’ve seen a few examples, although of course now you’re going to toddle off to Google and see what images are on there. Here’s my favourite.

So…

Why do businesses need editors? Simply to make you the best you can be…and save you a red face or an expensive return trip to the printers. It’s like health insurance for your words.

The Armchair Wanderer

A review of The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy

(and a way of following in his footsteps without all the scary bits)

Andrew McCarthy is a travel writer. He was once a film star, a teen idol and a sensitive teen; he still acts and directs. But reading his biography The Longest Way Home you realise that he is a traveller at heart and has a wonderful way with words. This is more than just a biography following his search for intimacy and a sense of belonging (as well as the courage to actually face his demons), this is a travel book. Reading it you can see how he has come to be a prize-winning travel writer and editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler magazine. If you’ve ever read any of his travel writing you’ll know how passionate he is for immersing himself in the world. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderfully readable biography, if a little uncomfortable to read at times (it really is like reading his diary), but the highlight for me is his travel writing.  From Patagonia and the Amazon to Dublin, McCarthy gives you a real feel for the places he visits.

Now…I’m stuck up here on the Edge of the World (at least that’s how I see it at times), so even travelling back down south to “civilisation” can be a major undertaking (well, that’s how it feels anyway…120 miles to the nearest decent shopping is WAY too far for my liking). So it brings a sense of wonder and, I have to admit, a teensy bit of jealousy, to see how easy it seems for Andrew to hop on a plane and land in an exotic location without a second thought. Yes, I think he is searching for a sense of belonging with his writing assignments, but overall I just felt that I wanted to sit alongside and actually experience what he did. That he can go wandering on his own, through sometimes inhospitable climates, leaves me with a sense of inadequacy in the “freedom to roam” department (and I suppose may also hint at my own psychological blocks and freedom issues). In fact I wanted so much to see the places he did that I did what any self-respecting pseudo-gypsy would. I hopped over to GoogleMaps.

Now bear with me…this really only works if you follow me…go on, open another browser window and get GoogleMaps up (I’ll wait here while you do that)

El Calafate is his first stop in Patagonia, zoom in to follow in Andrew’s footsteps and zoom out to see just where this place actually is in the world. But remember, it’s MUCH better in satellite view! Look at all the snow…don’t you just want to jump down and into the picture?

Move on to El Chalten, isn’t it beautiful! Just type El Chalten from here and the map will take you there. Go on….zoom in and out. And I thought I lived in a remote place!

Rugged huh? http://travelcostaricanow.com

One place I’d never heard of is the Osa in Costa Rica…so you zoom in to see the country  and move down to see the Osa itself, look at Puerto Jiminez, then just wander around the place…and to think McCarthy actually went wandering inland on his own. He either has nerves of steel, is supremely confident, or is out of his mind!

Finally…the Amazon. Nip over to Iquitos, Loreto Region, Peru…click on the photo to have a look at the Plaza de Armas. Who’d have thought there was such a large city on the Amazon? Now leave Iquitos and head for Nauta and mosey on up the Amazon.

So, you have the idea now…you just wander around virtually to see the places he saw. It certainly won’t give you the real experience, but it does add an extra dimension. You can wander around with our intrepid traveller and wish you were actually there with him. Well…..until you realise you’d probably find yourself alone after he’s wandered off the beaten track and left you to your own devices!

But let’s not finish there…let’s go back to GoogleMaps…

Duncansby Stacks… can you find them on the map? http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk

Type in Caithness. Zoom in and out…ok, it’s not as spectacular as the Amazon but we have our strong points. Zoom in near Castletown…there’s a lovely long beach there, perfect for just relaxing, and it’s never crowded. Zoom back out and you’ll see all those lovely little lochs and the countryside beloved of the hunting, shooting and fishing fraternity. We have the Flow Country, Europe’s largest peat landscape and there’s more archaeology than you can shake a stick at (you’d get very sore arms). Oh…and it’s one of the best places in the UK to see the Aurora Borealis.

So…where are you going to go next?

(As for the book…go buy it! I loved every minute of it)

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