I often catch myself smiling when I hear colleagues with various writing backgrounds gasp in horror, eyes widening and mouth sliding open, “This got printed?! I cannot believe he made that mistake!”
Well, I can. And I have seen some unbelievable bloopers on mail outs reaching thousands of customers. And what I learned is that those ‘unbelievable’ mistakes should never make you doubt yourself as a writer.
Here’s what I learned from the bloopers of my past bosses.
1. Never rush a mail out.
There’s always enough time. And if there’s not, rethink the strategy. My rule of thumb has been to let as many pairs of eyes skim the text as possible, or at least one person for every thousand contacts in your target audience. Recruit friends, aunts and anyone on your long email list to glance over your unhatched creation. What’s worse: meeting the deadline with “deep heap” instead of “deep heat therapy” or pushing a deadline back to create a flawless presentation cultivating a loyal customer?
Whether we admit it or not, one spelling or grammar mistake in an advertisement and the brand image becomes no longer trustworthy. There’s no position too high or too low to proof an important document one extra time.
2. Read it backwards, word for word.
A hidden truth lies in that proofing doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to work. Sing the text in your best opera voice, look at the draft upside down—whatever it takes to shift your perspective away from reading and onto seeing the structure of each sentence as a skeleton. Our brain functions very simply in reading, you see. It’s always scanning for the big picture, the story, the point behind the text. It just checks out. Our mind knows what it’s supposed to see and that’s exactly why catching mistakes in your own writing seems harder than magic eye puzzles in the dark.
3. Handle mistakes with grace.
No, firing the editor is not going to reverse the blooper. The mail out has left the building and you can hear the snickering as clients open their emails. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s not pretty. But what’s important here is to figure out a conducive proofing process that works every time before hitting the send button.
Here’s to every mistake being caught before print time, and as always, fearlessly write on.