Copy editors can save you from content marketing embarrassment

Without credibility, your creativity won't mean much to your audience. Solid copy editors can help maintain trust.

BY Becky Maughan
Senior Copy Editor, Imagination

A 2016 Adidas ad misspelled the country of Colombia and offended the very people it was trying to honor. A grocery chain announced on Facebook that its milk is made from powder, when the writer meant to say it was not made from powder. And typos in prices often cause a hit to profits.

Such flubs damage brands, and, thanks to social media, they do so quickly and widely. That’s why the best content marketers know copy editors are a necessity, not a luxury, to make sure a loss of credibility doesn’t get in the way of your creativity.

Beyond just preventing laughable typos, an experienced copy editor will make your content—whether it’s a blog post, magazine, website, ad, social media post or an annual report—professional and polished in terms of grammar, punctuation, capitalization and word choice.

Good copy editors are familiar with libel laws and will flag text that might get you into trouble. They’ll read with an understanding of an organization’s tone and voice, knowing that what’s on-brand in an energy drink company’s tweet is an embarrassment in a financial institution’s white paper.

Save the embarrassment

In short, copy editors have learned, often from painful, public experience, how language can go horribly wrong. Publishing inadvertent innuendos or insensitivity will distract from your organization’s message.

For instance, commonly used terms often commonly offend: It’s “Ukraine,” not “the Ukraine,” and never use “wheelchair-bound.” So-called bad breaks in lines of copy could disgust your target readers rather than attract them; imagine a billboard that blares:

*Eat your baby...

...carrots today*

If you don’t have a professional copy editor, a co-worker should thoroughly review your content. Make sure to bring this person in early enough in the editing process to allow for a big change, and remember the golden rule of writing: It must be clear. Copy editors don’t just protect you from mistakes; they protect you from miscommunication.

"A copy editor can serve as your content’s devil’s advocate, questioning every bit of text before you put it out in front of the world—and millions question it."

Becky Maughan
Senior Copy Editor, Imagination

Sweat the details—including visuals

Don’t overlook photos or illustrations: Is there something going on in the background that you don’t want associated with your brand?

I once worked at a publication that was hours from going to print when a copy editor noticed someone in one of the photos was making a gang sign. Even on-screen text in a video or ad is not immune from gaffes. In the best possible workflow, your copy editors put their keen eyes on all content, not just the written word.

Catch what spell check can’t

Always spell check everything, of course, but copy editors focus on what it can’t flag. Among the minefield of homonyms in the English language, “rein” and “reign” seem to be the most troublesome for skilled writers. Also scrutinize words such as “sign” and “soldier”—they regularly become “sing” and “solider.” Many short words together should be a red flag: We skim them, expecting the problems to be with complex terms, and end up with something like, “What time it is in New York?”

Even with the best precautions, errors happen. But a copy editor can serve as your content’s devil’s advocate, questioning every bit of text before you put it out in front of the world—and millions question it.

published: April 10, 2017