Su Brooks, one of Lanmark360’s proofreaders sees everything from tiny banner ads on websites to large billboards, all of which are not always perfect in grammar, formatting and usage. Below she shares with you some of the common mistakes and blunders she comes across on a day-to-day basis working at a healthcare marketing agency and offers her advice on how to avoid them.
Authors tend to overlook real words and adjacent characters on the keyboard. Be careful when typing words such as or and of since “r” and “f” are near each other on the keyboard. It’s easy to accidentally interchange a capital “O” with a “0”.
A common mistake is the use of the word handpiece instead of hand piece when writing about dental equipment. Authors can easily customize their reference tools so the word is not flagged as incorrect. Sometimes users choose the word less when the correct word would be fewer. For example, there may be less water, but fewer cups of water. Decide whether the items would be weighed/measured or counted.
Here are some other examples:
Andrew asked Andrea to read the sign at the rear of the building. Authors may transpose letters, typing trail when the correct word is trial. Both are real words that would not necessarily be flagged with grammar checking tools. Costumers design clothing for shows, movies, parades, special events and more. Customers purchase your products or services. Sign and print your name on the document; listen to your favorite band members sing.
You rely on them for so much, so go ahead and thank your assistants for their dedicated assistance.
Are you experiencing delays while files load? While they wait, thank your patients for their patience.
Cite the reference material you accessed from a book or site.
Remind your co-workers to pack their comfortable shoes since there will be plenty of walking at the convention they’re attending.
“Door alarmed after hours and weekends.” Is the door really frightened during those times?
“Beware of your purse.” Instead, remind patrons, patients, clients and customers to
“be aware” of where they place their purses.
It may be the same language, but geographical differences influence how words are spelled. Authors from other countries tend to use “realise”, “colour” and “flavour” instead of realize, color and flavor.
Missing in Action
Most of the time I have to ask, “what happened to the missing characters, punctuation or words at the beginning or end of a sentence?” Users copy content without highlighting the entire source before pasting it into the target location making the document a puzzle with missing pieces of punctuation.
When drawing attention to special offers or making claims, authors tend to include reference numbers or asterisks in the body text that do not have a corresponding reference in the footer.
What a Big Mouth!
Using common sense and watching spaces when formatting fractions is overlooked on occasion. One author placed the space in the wrong position indicating that the size of a mouth mirror was 11 1/16 inches instead of 1 11/16 inches.
Watch out for autocorrect. Although many of us are enthusiastic when discussing healthcare, is it really an exciting partial? Or, did the author mean to write an existing partial?
Sequence of Events
Procedures are often documented with text accompanied by photos or illustrations. It is important that captions correspond to the correct images and that the proper sequence is maintained.
What should I do?
Colleagues collaborate to get answers. Sometimes the answer is simple and straightforward. In other instances, the answer is, “it depends.” Here are a few examples.
Preventive and Preventative
The word preventive is much more commonly used than preventative.
The most respected publications favor preventive, while preventative is more likely to appear in print and online sources with less rigorous editorial standards.
One, two, three, 1, 2, 3…
Spell out single digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine.
Keep everything within categories the same, though. (Fig. 1, Fig. 2, etc.)
Authors may keep groupings or categories consistent when combining different ideas.
Use the word spelled out at the beginning of a sentence.
Trademarks ™ and registered trademarks ®
You can use TM on marks that you wish to designate as a trademark. No registration is required, and in most states this provides some “common law” trademark rights.
You can use the ® symbol once you obtain a federal trademark registration from the US Patent and Trademark Office. The process of applying for a federal trademark takes about a year, and during the application process you may NOT use the ® symbol since that is illegal. You must continue to use nothing or ™ until the federal registration is issued.
Some companies require that their trademark or registered trademark be used whenever their company, product or service is mentioned in text. Others prefer it is used once per piece. Some ask for first use per page in a multi-page document. The rules and requests become even more specific when their logo is on the page and is adjacent to the name mentioned in the text. In that case, the trademark or registered trademark may not have to be applied.
And an ampersand (&)
In most cases, the word and should be used. The ampersand (&) is typically used in informal writing or within a small space. Many style guides recommend using the ampersand if the name of a company is abbreviated (AT&T), and also in common expressions such as R&D. The word and can be abbreviated in common phrases such as rock ‘n’ roll.
What’s your style? It’s a matter of style.
There are numerous entries in books and on websites dedicated to informing authors about the use of italics, using an underscore, making text bold or “placing text in quotations” when citing magazines, publications, articles and other sources.
Various companies, groups, industries and organizations have created their own style guides for authors and editors to ensure consistency in their print and online materials.
These include, but are not limited to, general writing, business, legal, academic, journalism and electronic publishing. Style guides differ for each country.
Authors and editors who work for one company, industry or organization regularly follow one set of style guidelines. When working with or on behalf of several companies at a time, find out what each one requires.
Breaking the rules
You may follow a style guide which suggests you remove a comma after the last “and” or “or” in a string of phrases in a sentence. However, you may encounter multiple uses of “and” and “or” in long sentences that may require keeping those additional commas instead of removing them in order to avoid confusion.
You may also be asked to type something exactly as is when quoting someone, instead of altering the grammar or punctuation to maintain a style. You may also be asked to copy this exactly as is to maintain continuity between documents.
In conclusion, when reviewing your material on screen and in print, use tools to check spelling and grammar, consult online or hard copy reference materials, check your formatting, keep learning and always have a second set of eyes review your materials before it publishes or prints.