Are You Making These Costly Copy Errors?

Dennis Hensley, speaking on the importance of details, mentioned one freelance writer whose entire thirty-five-hundred- word article on food preparation techniques was rejected because the author spelled ptomaine without the letter “p” at the beginning. The editor reasoned that if the writer didn’t bother to double-check the spelling, he might not have checked the other food safety facts in the article. If so, it was too risky to publish the article.

Wow, I’d be kicking myself in the pants for a week!  How about you?

I can only guess what that article was worth.

Certain mistakes are easier to miss than others.
Here are a few important points to scrutinize before you hit send.

Your spell-check feature is a starting point only. Review any words that are not familiar to you. Research the spelling of people’s names, places, and businesses. Names can be misspelled on nameplates, billboards, and even in print. Unusual spellings for everyday names are common now. When possible, get the name spelled by the person in question. Ask them to spell the name out and then spell what you heard back to them.


Misquoting someone is serious. Make sure you use a quote correctly and retained its conextual meaning. Make sure the punctuation you use conveys the original meaning. Even “famous” quotations can be incorrect. Did you know the phraseWriting/book/Costly errors/mistakes , “Elementary, my dear Watson” was never spoken by the character Sherlock Holmes in the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? The first use of the phrase in this form appears in the 1929 film, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes.” The original manuscripts do use, “My dear Watson” and “Elementary” in separate places in many conversations.

You can also leave one word out of a phrase and change the whole meaning. Such as:
“Gun safety states you should (never) point your weapon at things you do not intend to shoot.” (Oops!)

Numbers and Facts

You should review all dates and times for accuracy. If there are numbers in your article it is easy to make a mistake, especially for me. If, like me, math is not your strength have someone look over your work. Make sure your numbers add up. Check even things you are familiar with. Often items get printed and handed down so much they sound correct even though they’re not. This can cost you credibility. Test yourself. Guess at the following three questions first, before looking at the answers.

Q: Was the United States Declaration of Independence signed July 4, 1776?

A: No, The document’s language was finalized, printed, and distributed on July 4th and 5th. The signing occurred on August 2, 1776. Yay, we have another date to cook-out!

Q: Is food cooked with liquor non-alcoholic since alcohol has a low boiling point and evaporates quickly?

A: No, this varies depending on the time and method of cooking; anywhere from 10% to 40% of the alcohol can still remain. Is the same thing is true of caffeine and cooking with coffee?

Q: Are French Fries French?

A: Nope, They originated in Belgium. French only refers to the style of cut. Go Belgium, creators of thick waffles and French fries.

Did you get them all right? No? You might want to go do some fact checking. Even if you did well, double-checking is still a good idea. What kinds of things are easy for you to miss? Leave a comment. Write on!

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