How Copy Editing Makes the World Better

Terror-Eyes
Terror-Eyes seek out and destroys your typos!

Sometimes I feel like Atlas, using both hands to keep the world from getting stupider.

Just kidding, y’all. I have long been a natural copy editor–constantly pointing out typos, missing words, and incorrect punctuation wherever I see it (and I see it everywhere).

To a lot of people, copy editing seems like nitpicking. LET ME TELL YOU WHY IT’S NOT.

Copy editing pays (my) bills.

Aaaand on to the next one.

Copy editing improves reading comprehension.

People understanding what they read is pretty much super-pivotal. How many times have you tried to read the impossible “English” on product packaging and been completely enraged by its obscurity?

Or have you ordered breakfast from a badly written menu, and received something other than what you were expecting?

Oxford orange
Haaaaaaa, get it?

Copy editing makes text as perfect as it can be.

For anyone who appreciates the sheer beauty of words, this is a crucial consideration. There’s nothing like getting into the flow of a piece of writing, and having a typo or missing word straight-up donkey-kick you out of your Reading Rainbow reverie.

Beauty is important. Copy editing, in its small way, helps preserve beauty. [Click to tweet]Tweet: Beauty is important. Copy editing, in its small way, helps preserve beauty. - @theenglishmaven http://ctt.ec/M47X7+

Copy editing preserves the English language.

Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, in all of its truthiness, here is the crux of the issue. English is a living language, yes. But like all living things, it can only take so many unceremonious gut-punches before it shudders and dies.

Please stop misspelling “night” as “nite”. Please stop thinking “you’re” and “your” are synonymous. Please stop eliminating commas, one by one, from every sentence (though if it’s a stylistic choice, I’m down for that. But you have to be doing it on purpose; most people are not).

And please understand that these things matter, for the reasons listed above.

I’m not casting myself as the last, valiant defender of a dying art–but I am saying that if you speak to me in “abbrevs” one more time, I will break your laptop.

The “shameless plug” section

Did I mention I’m a copy editor, and that I offer Editor On Retainer packages so you never have to worry about provoking the anal-retentive rage of people like me? Get at me here.

The 5 Easiest Tools for Keeping an “Idea File”

5 Easiest Tools for Keeping an Idea File

Y’all, we’re all geniuses. We have a lot of great ideas, and if we lose them, THE WORLD LOSES THEM. So we write them down and save them for later–but where do we write them?

In an Idea File, of course. Check out the simplest 5 tools for keeping track of your brainwaves–from smartphone solutions to good ol’ pen and paper.

Just remember: However you choose to catalogue your creative impulses, don’t editorialize, judge, or dismiss them. Just write them down, and look at them later to find the ones that shine.

Gmail task list

This is where I, trained as a ninja in the art of digital task management, excel. Like many of you, I use my main To-Do list to check off items when I complete them (and give myself a boost of glorious can-do motivation).

But I also keep a separate list, creatively titled “Ideas”. It’s a good dumping ground for the times when I’m stuck in my email and don’t want to open anything else. And when I use an idea from the list, I can check it off and get that same boost.

Also, if you’re not using Gmail, what are you even doing with your life?

Evernote

I’ll admit: I was slow to come to Evernote. But now that I use it to keep track of my workouts (hello, Stone Age), I’ve come to appreciate its magical capacity to sync across platforms.

Also, I lost my phone during Mardi Gras, and it took losing all of the ideas in the phone’s Notes app to get me to use Evernote. The world will never know about circle bacon.

Fishbowl with scraps of paper

Sorry, no link. This is the most old-school method ever, and I hear it works really well–from the four people who still use it.

Just kidding. If you’re ever hard-up for inspiration, fishing a scrap of paper out of a bowl (or jar) can be the touch of whimsy you need to see an old idea in a new light.

Index card organizer

I like to think of this method as the more tangible, less fire-and-hurricane-safe version of Evernote. You can organize your ideas by alphabetical order, type, or degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. Then, you can use your cards to create an outline for your sixth-grade history paper!

Pinterest, Polyvore and other virtual bulletin boards

Artists, stylists, and other people who think and work more visually should give Pinterest and Polyvore a try. Though Pinterest does have a lot of crap (you only need so many recipes for “green juice,” after all), it’s easy to make private, curated boards that convey a mood or theme without words.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear what other people do. How do you keep track of your ideas?

The Single Most Important Conversion Tool (That Most Websites Lack)

Brace yourself, because I’m about to throw some hard truths at you. But hey, at least they’re not bricks.

Read on to find out whether your website is missing the number-one tool to convert prospects to buyers. (And it doesn’t matter whether you run a business or not — this applies to personal websites and LinkedIn profiles, too.)

The Missing Piece

You shelled out for a beautiful new website design. Your e-commerce store is stocked and ready to ship. Your SEO is ranking well. But you still don’t have any conversions or paying customers. Why?

You forgot to hire a copywriter.

A gorgeous website without equally dazzling content is like a Michael Bay movie: loud, flashy, empty and frankly disappointing. Design and content go hand-in-hand. You won’t see results if one or the other is missing.

Michael Bay explosion
Also, Michael Bay movies suck.

Get Your Words’ Worth

Visitors to your site are looking for reasons to buy what you’re selling, whether that’s gourmet dog treats, dynamite copywriting services, or you and your resume.

They’re not looking for generic hard sells  (“The Best Dog Treats Available!”) or bland clichés (“You Won’t Believe Your Eyes…”). These trite turns of phrase turn customers off.

A good copywriter takes what’s special about your product and presents that information to the person most likely to buy. Good copy answers the following questions:

  • What makes the product unique?
  • What need will it fill? What problem will it solve?
  • Where can customers buy it?

Content should never be an afterthought. It should be the first thing you think of as you design your website, flyer, brochure — any piece of marketing collateral.

Consider Your Audience

A good copywriter gets to know your product AND your target audience. Claude C. Hopkins, the original gangster of copywriting, said: “We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn to win one.”

Your target audience is not “everyone,” so your copy shouldn’t target everyone.

Test Your Copy Right Now

There are two easy ways to test your written copy for effectiveness.

  1. Pretend you’re Morgan Freeman. Read your copy out loud in your best Morgan Freeman voice. If it does not sound at least as epic as “March of the Penguins,” hire a copywriter.
  2. Ask the questions listed above and see if your site copy answers all of them.
Morgan Freeman as God
WWMFD?

 How does your copy measure up? If you’re not sure, send me your copy at lianna@theenglishmaven.com for a free evaluation. If you are sure (that you’re unhappy with your copy), I’d love to help. Request a project quote here.