Being an Editor in a World of Typos
We all make mistakes, but a good rule of thumb in the media business is to always keep them to a bare minimum, specially when your work can be seen by thousands of readers. Yet, for whatever reason - reductions in the editorial departments? A texting-obsessed youth? Laziness when proofing? - I've been noticing a staggering amount of mistakes in grammar, spelling, syntax and usage in several recognized social media pages, in local newspapers and even in pieces by big broadcasting corporations like CNN, ESPN and Univision.
Perhaps more frustratingly, many of these writing mistakes seem to be rooted not in a lack of attention to detail, but in plain old ignorance.
See, while some may find it acceptable - and lets face it, kind of hilarious - that the people of Wisconsin may not know how spell the name of their own state, the standard should be way higher for communication professionals who make a living out of writing, be it for a Facebook page, for a small company or for the worldwide leader in sports.
Next, I'll outline a few of the most common and egregious mistakes people make when writing for online audiences.
Using "affect" instead of "effect"
This one truly confounds me, mostly because is the one of the most common transgressions and yet it is, to me, the easiest to understand. "Affect" is a verb and "effect" is a noun, so the rain didn't "effect" the cancellation of the concert and certainly aren't seeing the "affects" of crime in Memphis.
Confusing "they're" with "their"
You thought homophones like this only happened in social media comments and badly written memes? Think again. Most recently, I came across this violation in a column from a reputable regional publication. In the article, the author expressed great satisfaction with the Nashville Predators unlikely journey to the NHL playoffs, saying: "their without a doubt hockey's most pleasant surprise in years." They are indeed.
Mixing "it's" with "its"
Apostrophes can truly confuse people, and there is no better example of this than the eternal "struggle" with the use of "it's" as a contraction to replace "it is" and the use of "its" as a possessive pronoun. As clear-cut as it looks, younger people in particular seem to carry this bad habit with them from their texting days.
As incredible as it may seem, mistakes like this are increasingly common in today's digital media. Fortunately, this trend has two easy solutions: people have to read more, and companies have to hire better talent.
At the end of the day, hiring better writers is in the best interest of everyone. Companies and media benefit from having compelling stories with spotless writing upholding their brand, and the public at large benefits from reading those stories without reinforcing bad writing habits.
If you'd like to see what a good writer can do for your company, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.