Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House, wrote a book about the English language. I’ve been so impatient to get my hands on it I’ve been hanging around the gate waiting for the Amazon box like a dog overdue for a walk — lots of pacing, a fair bit of whimpering and just a little drooling. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about a book. I even tweeted about it.
I’ve been impatient for this to arrive. It’s a good start to the day. @BCDreyer #writing #editing #copyediting pic.twitter.com/dYwd5jVulU
— Sarah Mitchell (@SarahMitchellOz) February 21, 2019
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style is a romance novel for word nerds. As someone who is happiest sitting in my office, arranging words on a page — or rearranging someone else’s words — this book reminded me I was part of an interdependent tribe all working towards the same goal: to write better.
Notice I didn’t say the goal is to write perfectly. No writer or editor would ever demand that. Writing is a creative process with so many ways to express yourself. Putting a perfection mandate on the craft would kill all the fun of writing. In my opinion, it would take a lot of the fun out of reading, too.
We’re all writing, all the time. We’re pecking out text messages, firing off social media posts, and hammering away at email. For those of us working in marketing, the writing task is more consuming as we grapple with how a business communicates to humans. It becomes more complicated because how you write reflects on the quality of your business, regardless of the type of business you’re working in.
Take for example, this howler from a freelance writing group. Would you ever consider working with someone who didn’t understand the basic concepts of their profession? Of, if they do understand the basics, can’t be bothered to adhere to them in a peer networking group?
If you’re writing English as a second language (ESL), you have your own challenges. I have no idea what’s in those meat rolls advertised by a humble restaurant in my neighbourhood but it does make me wonder — wonder if I should ever go back. It also makes me feel a little bit sick to my stomach.
I even see obvious errors in company branding, even large company branding, and it makes me wonder if anyone is reading their own copy? Or is anyone reviewing email? This email signature has a spelling error in the first line and a capitalisation error in the second. Both lines have punctuation errors. And it’s only two lines long!
Or this text from one of my service providers with an obvious grammatical error:
I’m not about to name and shame any of these businesses. The point I’m trying to make is there is a plethora of mistakes being made, from laziness or ignorance — or both. In the four examples I’ve provided — all collected in the last 24 hours — each of them is reflecting poorly on their brand.
There is an answer to quality writing and it’s about as painless as you can imagine. Hire someone to proofread everything you send out to customers. Get someone to check all the copy on your website. Have them review your company branding. And, for the sake of all us word nerds, please get someone to proof things you’re publishing for your customers to read, especially blog posts and newsletters.
A good proofreader can make you look at least as smart as you really are. They can make your business look professional and demonstrate your attention to detail, quality and even customer care.
I can’t recommend Dreyer’s book enough. If you’re a word nerd, go out and buy it. If you simply want to write better, it’s a good investment. Or, if you’re one of those people who spent their youth with a nose stuck in a book, it’s for you, too.
If you’d like to sleep easier knowing everything you publish or send to customers is as close to perfect as humanly possible — and that’s a lot closer to perfect than a machine will ever get it — hire a proofreader. Once you get used to working with someone who checks your writing, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without the service.
Here’s an added bonus for using a proofreader. I shave about 10% of the total time it takes to write a quality piece when I work with a proofreader. Why? Because I don’t have to sweat the small details, look through style manuals, or Google grammar questions. If I can get it most of the way there, my proofreader does the part of the writing job I find the least fun.
Typeset has professional proofreaders and copyeditors in Perth and London ready to help you out. Get in touch to find out what it feels like to never worry about your writing again.