Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Errors in Your Writing Can Be Costly

by Tippi Hyde

To stand out in a fiercely competitive market, entrepreneurs and other professionals have been encouraged to showcase their expertise by writing books. In fact, books have been called the new business cards 1. If someone you just met gave you a business card with several errors on it, you probably would not rush to do business with him or her. You might infer that the person is unprofessional, lazy, and does not pay attention to detail. These same judgments could be made about you if your book (or other work) is full of errors and inconsistencies.
Your image and income can be negatively affected by errors in your writing. Readers may feel that it is not worth wading through mistakes in your document to get to your point or to learn more about what you have to offer. You will never know how many people have (or will) put down your book, click away from your blog or website, or choose not to do business with you because of their negative assumptions about you based on errors and inconsistencies in your work.

If your writing is being published, you are a writer, regardless of your primary profession. As a writer, you should care about knowing writing-related rules and producing quality documents. Take time to review grammar, usage, and mechanics, and commit to reading at least one grammar or other writing-related book per month. Grammar and usage are taught simplistically in most SAT II Writing and Praxis I PPST preparation books, and the books include plenty of exercises. The following websites are also excellent resources: Purdue Online Writing Lab 2; Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing 3; and Guide to Grammar and Writing 4.

After reviewing your manuscript with your newly learned (or relearned) skills, hire an editor. In addition to a basic proofread (which includes checking for typos; errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics; and style consistency), an editor may rewrite for clarity or brevity and fact-check. An editor also ensures that what you intend to convey to your readers is what you actually convey.

Ironically, most professional, classically trained writers would not consider having their work published without having an editor review it, yet many untrained writers believe that they don’t need an editor and that publishing error-free work is not important. Each of the hundreds of manuscripts and other lengthy documents that I have reviewed during my 10 years of editing has needed a full edit, no matter how skilled the writer was. Granted, hiring an editor for short, time-sensitive works (like some blog posts) might not be feasible because of time or money. Before publishing these types of works, have friends or family members review them, and do not skip your own edit.

For books and other major works, however, do not think of hiring an editor as optional; consider it a necessary book-publishing expense. Something priceless is at stake: your credibility.

1  See “Is a Book the New Business Card?” in SmartMoney Magazine (
2 Purdue Online Writing Lab:
3 Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing:
4 Guide to Grammar and Writing:

Tippi Hyde is a freelance editor who also coaches doctoral students through the dissertation editing stage. She is currently developing online classes in grammar, usage, mechanics, and style, which will be free for the first 10 readers of this blog who inquire. If you are interested, e-mail her at

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