“There is no magic in magic, it’s all in the details.”—Walt Disney
The first time I became interested in sales, branding and business was when I visited Walt Disney World when I was 13 years old. The thing that impressed me the most was how much they used the Mickey Mouse logo. I will never forget looking down at the sewer caps in the street to see a Mickey Mouse logo embossed on the metal. “They have thought of everything,” I said to myself.
Disney did a darn good job selling themselves through all of your senses at all times. From eating Mickey Mouse ear-shaped waffles at breakfast to listening to Disney movie music on your monorail ride to the park, a customer was sold and then resold again on the Disney magic every chance they had.
I view the work of proofreading and editing to be similar to Disney’s. Sure, I will fix your spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. But, I will also look at what your brand identity or book message wants to portray and work with all the tools I have to enhance your writing to be the most engaging, persuasive and saleable at all points.
To get started on crafting messages that consider every detail to engage readers, I recommend three ways to improve your writing before it is published:
- Clean up your writing
- Make sure the writing speaks to the intended audience
- Make sure your writing is unique, original and interesting.
Whether it is a complete manuscript, resume, online content or advertisement copy, the tips below will get you started in publishing content that not only sells customers and readers but retains them.
Clean Up Your Writing
Nothing will get you kicked out the door faster than poor writing skills. You would think it is apparent that you should run a spelling and grammar check before you publish a book or post online content. Unfortunately, even the most professional writer can miss significant errors.
In most cases, people cannot see the forest for the trees after spending too much time crafting their message. A fresh pair of proofreading eyes can help eliminate errors that the author is too close to seeing. Nothing will lose customers and readers faster than misspelled words or poor grammar.
I have seen many resumes people have submitted for a job opening, where they misspelled the company name in one place or the name of a city in another. Most of the time these are honest mistakes because they are so invested in making sure every detail is correct, they miss the obvious errors.
When I became a manager myself, I did not even offer an interview for a qualified candidate because she had two words misspelled on her resume. How was she supposed to be successful in a job that required an eye for detail?
I also proofread for writers where English is not their first language or for people with learning disabilities. I had the same team partner on several business school projects who struggled with English since it was not his first language. I would always question how he even got into the school with his poor English skills. Our projects were always a struggle because we spent so much time rewriting the presentations and summaries.
If you do not have good spelling, punctuation and grammar skills, or you believe proofreading or editing is a drain on your time, hire a professional proofreader to do the job for you. There are people like me out there that enjoy this type of work and are available to help.
Your reputation is worth the investment. A good proofreader or editor should not cost you out of wanting to hire the service. There are plenty of good-quality proofreaders who will be worth the money you spent for an editor or proofreader.
Make Sure the Writing Speaks to the Intended Audience
Besides misspellings, forgetting to write with your audience in mind is the next quickest way not to retain a customer or reader. The intended audience means that you understand who will most likely buy your product or service or read your book if you are an author. Keeping the writing style and wording focused on the intended audience makes the product, service or book relatable, approachable and supports the message you want to get across.
For example, if you were selling odor eliminators across the US, you would not want to write a marketing piece about how your product can remove the stink from clothes after riding the subway all day. Since subways are not a primary form of transportation in this country, I suggest changing the example to appeal to a broader audience.
Consistently writing with the intended audience in mind is challenging because it requires focusing on every sentence. Keeping the intended audience in mind without slipping into your natural influences and conversational tone will often produce writing that may be off-putting to an audience.
A writer can quickly lose the reader’s attention if they do not think the writing is relatable to their situation. Whether your age, the place you live in or your economic status, all of these factors and more can derail a writer from producing work that does not focus on the intended audience.
For example, I am currently reading a pre-published travel memoir by a first-time author. She is in her early 50s and used to be a travel agent. Once I started the book, I enjoyed it. But, when I made it to page 70, the language began to derail. I started noticing little sayings that someone in their fifties probably would not (or should not) say in daily conversation. “For realsies,” “Totally bunk,” and, “Sweet-ass gig” are not common phrases used by this age group. It was also inconsistent with the writing in the previous pages. These annoying little sayings slowly built into frustration for me. I thought I was reading a book about a seasoned traveler. Once I questioned her age, I started questioning the authenticity of her stories altogether.
I had to put the book down for a few days before picking it back up. When this book is published, another reader may have the same issues, may ask for a refund, give a bad review of the book, or not read the author’s next book.
For businesses, staying laser-focused on your target customer will win you more sales and retain those customers for the long term. Spreading your audience too thin often results in core customers feeling alienated from the brand. Writing with the intended audience in mind consistently is very important to retaining customers and readers.
Make Sure Writing is Unique, Interesting and Original.
One of the first things you learn in writing is how to avoid plagiarism. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines plagiarized as, “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: Use (another’s production) without crediting the source.”
I appreciate how the definition includes the word “steal.” It is just wrong and unlawful to plagiarize. And, if your publishing writing online contains plagiarized content, your published work will receive a lower ranking in search results.
Not only is plagiarism awful, but it is not original. How many times have you searched the Internet on an obscure topic, only to find either one relevant article or four articles that say the same thing? Everyone is searching for interesting, unique and original solutions and thoughts.
Most editors and proofreaders you hire will assume you are not plagiarizing material but will check anyway to see if the writing skirts the similarity boundaries of something already published. If you plagiarize, you run the risk of legal action.
Writing is more impactful if it is authentic.
But more than legal ramifications, no one wants to spend their time reading the same thing recycled in different forms. Customers and readers are more likely to tune into your next published piece or content if you express originality.
Editors and proofreaders can suggest rewording. If you are stuck, editors can pull you out of the creative rut, look at your target audience, products, services or readers with fresh eyes and offer a new perspective that you may not even see.
I often get hired to write and edit for companies where I know little about their products or services. I find this helpful because I can write from a fresh perspective and produce original and unique content for the client. Hiring a copywriter, editor or proofreader who does not know what you sell, but can write well, can make the product or service easier to understand and more approachable for customers.
I often see this type of problem in communities that possess their own language. One example is the military. When I write for a product developed for a tactical audience, I avoid military jargon and terminology. Many people who buy tactical clothing and products never spent time in the military, and product descriptions that contain military language can confuse customers and alienate them from understanding and feeling that the product or service will be helpful for them.
Even if you believe you have original thoughts down, it is always good to check if your writing contains any unintended plagiarism. And if you do reword some material or use facts from a website, it is good manners to include that source in your article. You can see my source list for this article at the bottom of this page.
To save your reputation and not have the “Google police” take down your site, here are a few good online tools that can do a preliminary check for plagiarism:
To retain customers and readers, proofreading and editing your content before publication is one detail that is not too small to overlook. To save your reputation, be sure to clean your content of errors, speak to the intended audience and be original.
If you are struggling with error-free published content or looking to make your writing more engaging for customers, contact me to talk more about how I can take the burden of editing off your plate. It is one small detail worth the investment.