Please Tell Me if I Have Spinach in My Teeth!
Have you ever spent hours carefully crafting a blog post, editing and re-editing your work only to find (after launching and promoting the heck out of it) that you missed a horrific spelling or grammatical error? Argh! It’s the digital equivalent of arriving home at the end of a long evening to find a huge piece of spinach in your teeth. Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?!
We have all been there. The only solace that works for me is the knowledge that I have seen even bigger errors on other blogs. Yes, misery loves company.
Do I say anything when I spot these errors? Nope – I most certainly do not. Perhaps it is for lack of time or maybe I’m just too chicken that I will anger the author, but I am making a new year’s pledge to change this behavior. Just as I would want someone to tell me if I had spinach in my teeth, I want to know if there is an error on my blog and I suspect other bloggers feel the same way. Errors are easy to fix and we can save each other from additional embarrassment.
Before I embark on my editorial mission, however, I would like to share a few tips that I use in my writing to avoid making mistakes in the first place.
1. Accept That Your First Draft Will Suck (and, probably the second one too)
One of my favorite recent TV moments was when Téa Leoni (as Elizabeth McCord in Madame Secretary) was talking about her speech writer. She said that she always hated his first and second drafts, but she LOVED his third drafts.
Ms. Leoni was in a hurry and was trying to convince a world leader to skip their customary negotiation tactics and get straight to the resolution (the third draft). Sadly, as a writer, this kind of efficiency is nearly impossible but the inspiration I took from the comment was “In ordinary life, it is ok if your first and second drafts suck.”
Hey! Don’t judge. We all need to find inspiration somewhere.
Quality work takes time – get over it. I have been seeing reports that suggest that bloggers can churn out new posts in about two hours. I find this tremendously annoying and misleading. Two hours is how long it takes me to create my first draft. Then, the real work starts. I take a break then come back to apply a critical eye to my work. This typically results in a “hated it!” moment which prompts me to get cracking on draft two.
2. Use Spell and Grammar Check – Twice
This seems obvious, but I worry that our culture has become too reliant on automation. I read a lot and I see posts that are so bad that I wonder if the author had spell check turned on at all. Please do not miss this tremendously important step.
Create your blog post in a word processor first (like Word or Pages) and pay attention to all those green and red lines under your typing. If there aren’t any, check to make sure spell and grammar check is turned on.
When you think you are finished, load your post onto your website and make use of the spellchecker there as well before hitting “publish.” This is critical. I use WordPress to publish my posts and it catches errors that my word processor does not. I don’t know why this happens, but I am tremendously grateful and it has saved me a lot of embarrassment.
3. Find, Hire or Draft a Blogging Buddy
In the spirit of transparency, I am stealing the term “blogging buddy” from Peg Fitzpatrick who is blogging buddies with Rebekah Radice, but I just love this term.
When I set out on my blogging journey I drafted my sweet, supportive husband to be my blogging buddy. He has always been my biggest fan and toughest critic – which pushes me to be my very best. Not only did he accept the (unpaid) role of editor for my blog, but he took it a step further and began blogging for his company so that I can return the favor.
Find someone who will review your work and provide you with honest, constructive feedback. When you know that someone will critically review your writing you will find that you never give them a blog that is not your very best work. I cannot overstate how important this is because a good buddy will find things that you do not – not just grammatically, but from the viewpoint of clarity or completeness.
Presuming you take this advice, you must also steel yourself for the inevitable. Occasionally, the person you have tasked with reviewing your work will come back and suggest that you start over or at the very least, do a major rewrite.
As frustrating as this can be, it is better to know that your blog post is awful before it goes out. Swallow your pride, avoid being defensive and review your writing from their perspective, then pull an all-nighter and get it done.
If you spot an error in my blog, please tell me! I will be forever grateful that you did NOT allow me to continue my work with spinach in my teeth.
Do these tips always work? Of course not. I’m only human and sometimes, despite my best efforts, mistakes still make it through. In fact, Murphy’s law dictates that there will be an error in this post. When a mistake happens the only choice is to fix it, make the necessary apologies then brush it off and move on.
My clients are often companies who are new to the content marketing game. They wish to step up their digital presence to stay current and grow their business and they come to me for help. I have huge respect for the fact that they are willing to take this leap. Developing and writing content is an incredibly creative and vulnerable thing to do and we need all the support we can get.