The essentials of copywriting: proof-reading

At Nixon, our New Year’s resolution is to get down on paper – or screen – some of the useful things we’ve learned about design, development and copywriting. We’ll be running a series of articles, posted fortnightly, beginning here with a post relating to copywriting. Proof-reading might seem too simple a place to begin, but read on and you’ll see why it’s best to start with the basics.

We know how it is – you spend ages working on a document or a chunk of text, you’ve been at it all day, you’re fed up with it, and you just want it done. You should really sit and proof-read it, but… It’ll probably be fine. Won’t it?

That thought process could well be your downfall. Yes, proof-reading is dull. Yes, your document, which you’ve just spent hours looking over, probably doesn’t have any typos left in it that you haven’t already noticed. But, oh my, yes it’s essential. The document that you’ve worked so hard on, that makes your business sound amazing, can just as easily make you look like the biggest mug ever if there’s an unfortunate typo in it.

Most people will think that this advice is completely unnecessary, but even the best of us can fall foul of the English language. Just Google ‘terrible typos’ and you’ll see what I mean. My personal favourites are the American ‘School of Pubic Affairs’ (embarrassing for everyone), the ‘Valley Newss’ newspaper that misspelled its own name, and the revelation that school is ‘two easy for kids’, as reported on WNDU 16 News. If you had to read back over this paragraph to find out why any of those were wrong, you’ll see how easy it is for errors to slip through.

The trouble is, when you’ve been looking at something for a long period of time, it actually becomes harder to spot your mistakes. If we could offer a step-by-step guide relating to proof-reading, it’d probably go something like this:

1) Do it. Just do it.
2) Use a spell-checker. If you’re inputting text directly into a web page that doesn’t have one, copy and paste it into a Word document.
3) Take a break. You may not have lots of time, but a quick break from the text makes it easier to find mistakes. Make a cup of tea and come back to it.
4) Print it out. We like being green, but we also like being flawless (if we possibly can be). For some reason, it’s often easier to see errors on paper.
5) Ask someone else to read it. Unless you’re working on your own, this is a really valuable thing to do. You might think that you’re using ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ correctly, but another pair of eyes will root it out if you’re not.

As a starter for ten, let’s delve into some of the most common mistakes we see.

1) Its v. it’s: This is a weird one that can catch out anyone. If you’re shortening ‘it is’ or ‘it has’, the result is it’s. If someone owns something (a possessive), you use its: e.g. ‘the dog chased after its ball’ or ‘Cornwall is known for its beaches.’ 
2) Capitals v. lower case: Proper nouns (e.g. names) should always have a capital letter, whether it’s a person’s name, place name or a brand name, such as Coca Cola. However, if you’re referring to a thing more generally, like lemonade, it doesn’t.
3) They’re, their and there: Even if you know this, a momentary lapse in concentration can catch you out. Their is when a group owns something (possessive), e.g. ‘the group pooled their resources’. They’re is short for ‘they are’ and there is a place.
4) Double letters: words with a mix of single and double letters are among the most commonly misspelled. Do check a dictionary to be sure. The following are the correct spellings: accommodation, necessary, possession, disappoint, unforeseen.
5) Missing words: it’s easy to miss words out of a sentence altogether, as this is something that a spell-checker won’t pick up on. To avoid it happening, make sure you read what is actually written on the page, not what you expect to be there. The same applies to words that can be accidentally shortened, like ‘off’ and ‘of’.

Remember, if in doubt, we can proof-read for you. If you’re paying out on having 10,000 flyers printed out, you don’t want to end up in the same boat as the people who wrongly captioned Sesame Street’s the Count.

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Posted by: Megan Oldcorn 22 January 2015

Introducing copywriting at Nixon

We’re delighted to say that our unique creative services now include copywriting and content strategy. Megan Oldcorn has joined the team to offer everything from the essentials such as proof-reading and sub-editing to larger projects like creating tone of voice guidelines.

With so much attention given over to how brands look and feel, maintaining a strong, consistent approach in text has never been so important. We know only too well how tricky it can be to work with a brand that is visually stunning but doesn’t quite deliver when it comes to content. Nobody wants to be accused of being ‘all style and no substance’.

In the past we’ve delivered both visually and in terms of content by working with expert wordsmiths such as Stranger Collective. Now, we’re happy to be in a position where we can combine our great relationships with others with the perks of having an in-house writer.

Generating compelling content can pose a variety of problems for the uninitiated. There are those who work hard on creating a new website but can’t find time to manage the demands of its blog page. Others have a large mailing list of current or potential customers, but email newsletters that fall flat. Often, it’s the people at the heart of a business, who understand and love it, that know best what they want to say. It’s just that finding the most impactful words can be more of a challenge.

That’s where we come in. We can offer help or advice across a variety of services, including:

• Tone of voice and style guidelines
• Website copy
• Email newsletter marketing
• Ghost blogging
• Proof-reading and sub-editing
• PR copywriting, such as press releases
• Advertisements, flyers and brochures
• Advertorial and features
• In-house magazines

If you’re not sure whether your text is working for you, we’ll gladly offer our opinion of where improvements could be made (nicely, of course!) If you do need help, or just want to outsource a job that isn’t your favourite, our copywriting and design services can work together to ensure that every word you put out there is on-brand and decidedly ‘you’.

We’re a pretty friendly bunch at Nixon, so if you’d like to find out more or have a chat about your business and current copy output, email [email protected] or phone 01736 758600.

If you’d rather manage your writing in-house but would appreciate a few tips on making it stand out, stay tuned to our blog for upcoming articles offering advice on a range of ‘wordy’ topics.

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Posted by: Nixon 15 January 2015

Hilarious examples of how failing to proof-read can ruin your marketing...… January 27 2015 Follow us +

Playing Radio roulette in the office, as a result we're listening to @ANTENNEVOL for some Austrian 90s pop! January 26 2015 Follow us +