by Steve Kellas

If you have ever been to one of my copywriting training sessions, you’ll already know the answer to this.

Even if you have used a computer once or twice for copywriting, you’re bound to know already that computer spell checkers and grammar checkers shouldn’t be relied upon.

Want an example?

Run this through your favourite program:

Ewe should reed you’re work out loud in stead.

If your program is like mine, it probably only picked up ‘reed’ thinking I meant ‘read’; which brings me to the point in all this…

Always read your writing out loud

Read out your work to yourself. Do it for emails, web pages, brochures – everything you do as a copywriter. Your ear is really your best grammar checker and using this one little trick will save you hours of revision and many moments of embarrassment.

Why out loud?

It’s because your ear is trained to detect the (often subtle) problems in text; not just glaring errors of repeated words or a dropped plural. You’ll also hear the issues within the phrasing and pick up on sluggish sentences, poor pacing and repetition of ideas.

Use a good guide to grammar

Sooner or later, reading your work out loud will only go so far in helping you actually fix the issues in your text.

Commonly confused words (e.g. who/whom), subtle punctuation choices (hyphen, M or N dash) and other less straightforward grammar issues mean you are going to need a more definitive source.

I use a combination of Oxford Grammar, Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch, and a little something I like to call ‘re-writing’.

Before I turn to a grammar or style guide, I look again at what I’ve written and I try to find an easier way to say what I want to say. I do this because, as copywriters, we are writing (generally) for a mass audience. That means that complex text and overly formal writing will actually lose prospects. If they aren’t confused, they’ll be turned off by phrasing that is technically correct, but above their level.

Spelling and finding the right words

I use dictionaries all the time to confirm spellings that are unfamiliar to me.

Which one you use will depend on the brand you are writing for and your own unique, copywriter style. Most of my clients prefer Oxford English spellings, but I do work on some brands that are US-based and prefer the US Merriam Webster spellings.

No matter which dictionary you choose, always read everything out loud. It’s the quickest way to make sure that your writing makes sense and to spot errors your eyes may miss.

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