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Judith Halliday

The Case of the Consistent Editor

Beware of mislabelled vegetables ...

Posted on: 28/09/2011   By: Judith Halliday

Many years ago I worked for an editor who, when doing his shopping on a Saturday, refused to buy anything from the greengrocer that was incorrectly labelled. So, he'd quite happily stump up for the pears, cabbage and green beans, even though what he really needed was the apple's, brocolli, runner beans' and cauliflour. He couldn't, he said, after spending a week striving for accuracy, let standards slip come the weekend ...

is brocolli and apple's acceptable these days?

is brocolli and apple's acceptable these days?

Many will snort at the very idea of a newspaper editor preaching to others about accuracy when, traditionally, newspapers are the home of the typo. But a newspaper is virtually stripped clean and rewritten from scratch every day. Checking happens, but there's little time for luxuries like double checking and professional proofreading, whereas the greengrocer has had his entire career to find out whether or not there should be an apostrophe in apples.

It is a bone of contention, of course, whether all of this really matters at all. Does a misplaced apostrophe really make a difference? Most reasonably intelligent people will work out what you're selling, even if your shop front offers Rug's rather than Rugs - but that misses the point.

The point is that you need to create a good impression and it certainly doesn't leave your customers with a good impression if they look at your shop front, your vegetable labels, your website or your marketing literature and realise that you couldn't even be bothered to get it checked out before you put it in the public domain.

You're trying to capture their attention and their goodwill. You're putting something out there that tells them that you can offer a good service or a good product and that when they come to you, you will endeavour to put all your efforts into ensuring you provide excellent service. OK, maybe you will, but then again, you couldn't even be bothered to spellcheck "brocolli", so maybe you won't.

In the world of modern communications it may seem like it doesn't matter how much care you take. Too often you hear the argument that it's just a text message, it's just a Facebook status, it's just a Tweet. They're there one minute, gone the next - OMG .... LOL.

But not everything is so transient and that leaflet, home page or brochure that you've sent out with a mistake in it will sit there for months, assuming the recipient doesn't immediately discard it because they've had an equally attractive offer from someone who impressed them just that little bit more.

So check it, or get someone else to check it - an experienced proofreader if at all possible - and give yourself a better chance of shifting some of that mountain of broccoli before it starts to smell really bad.

Until next time ...


More about Judith Halliday ...

My writing career began under the bright lights of Gateshead in 1986 - who wouldn't love a job that offered the chance to listen to Gateshead Borough Council's Public Waste Committee debate the introduction of wheelie bins for three hours? It was the start of a working life that taught me what makes a good story and how to tell it and, although I don't have a news editor lurking ready to throw things at me any more, or so much of an interest in wheelie bins, my love of writing and a fascination with talking to people and telling their stories is as strong as ever.

Today I work for Business Times in Northampton and the Northants Evening Telegraph as well as providing copywriting services and press releases for a number of local companies.

When I'm not doing that, I indulge in the things I love most, which include, in no particular order: my teenage children, Sunderland football club, my husband, chocolate, QI, Chinese noodles, my closest friends, Test Match Special, red wine, reading in bed, The Sound of Music and growing vegetables.


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