Your vs. You’re

Another writing error that 1) won’t get fixed by spellchecker, 2) will most definitely make your writing look less than stellar, and 3) is easy to fix all by yourself. Here’s how: Just think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your book” or “your blog.”

“You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re messing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

Take the test. Read the sentence out loud and if you can’t replace “your” with “you are,” then you’re using the wrong word. Replace it.

It’s as easy as that.

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Grammar Lesson: It’s vs. Its

It’s inevitable. I find this mistake in nearly every piece of writing I edit, and it’s one of those grammar errors that drives most seasoned editors completely insane and probably brings your former grammar teachers to their knees crying.

No worries. This is an easy enough mistake to fix. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun as in “your writing has lost its mojo.”

Avoid this mistake by proofing your work and reading the sentence out loud. Replace “its” with “it is” or “it has” and if it doesn’t make sense, you’re using the wrong word.

Copywriting Is an Investment, Not a Throw-Away

Copywriting is one of the most essential elements of effective marketing, whether it’s online or in print. The precarious blending of words with design involves strategically writing copy that promotes a company, product, opinion, or idea designed to drive the reader to action. Compelling copy grabs attention and connects with people so they’ll respond the way you want. If your copy doesn’t stop your target audience in their tracks, you won’t get your message read.

Look at the copy you have in your arsenal right now. Does it wow you? If you were the target audience instead of the owner of the copy, would you stop to read it? Pick any one piece and start with your headline. Does it stop you in your tracks? If not, it’s not doing its job. Throw out the headline and start again. If you can’t hook your audience’s attention here, they won’t read anything else you have to say.

Most copywriting will sink or swim right from the start, and no matter how great your product is or how efficient your company may be, how on-target your opinion is or how brilliant your idea may be, if no one reads about it, no one will know about it.

Bottom line: Invest in copywriting. Copywriters are some of the highest paid writers in the world for a reason; they know how to craft the right words in the right way to reach your target audience and get results.

Can a Computer Replace the Skills of an Editor?

At my last job, I was asked point-blank why in this day and age of advanced technology and general access to computers would any company need the services of an editor? I was, for lack of a better word, dumbfounded.

First, why would anyone ask a fellow employee to justify whether his or her position were truly necessary? Second, who could possibly think that a computer could do the job of an editor? Yes, computers can do some pretty wonderful things for writers and non-writers alike. They can spot basic grammar problems and even suggest corrections, find spelling errors, and on occasion spot places where a word may be missed. Not exactly foolproof. But they can’t rewrite poorly written copy, find garbled grammar, and fix word usage problems.

Case in point: The following sentence has a number of problems that your computer won’t identify but will make you look less than stellar. Would you rather rely on your laptop or the eagle eye of an editor?

Thomas ran form the back of the filed and caught the flier but he dropped it when he tipped.

Horrible sentence. I’m embarrassed to even use it as an example. Poorly written — spellchecker doesn’t care. Transposed letters — the words are correct (form, filed, flier, tripped) even though they don’t make sense in this sentence; spellchecker doesn’t care about that either. Missing comma — missed by spellchecker. These are the types of errors you will find in countless documents every day because we as a society have come to rely on spellchecker far too much.

So do you think companies need the services of editors, copyeditors, or proofreaders? I think the example above sufficiently answers that question.

The Explosion of Social Media

I ran across an interesting report on the website Pew Internet Project that discusses the role of social media and the Internet in the American life. Here’s an idea of what the report had to say:

By 2020, the use of social media and the Internet will completely eradicate the boundaries of the work life/private life.

Well-connected workers will willingly eliminate the industrial-age boundaries between work hours and personal time, seamlessly blending the two thanks to the widely-accepted use of social media and the Internet. Essentaily, we will be able to attend to either personal or professional duties wherever and whenever they need our attention, sometimes at the same time, making working from home, the gym, the mall, a library, or communal meeting space common place.

Billionaire Writer Declines Editorial Help

I recently came across this entry on the blog of Dragonfly Editorial making the case of why all writers, no matter how great they are, need great editors to tighten and improve their work. See if you agree:

“Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti has apparently been reading my mind. He recently wrote about his dismay that J.K. Rowling’s fourth and fifth books in the Harry Potter series, The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, appeared to have received little to no editing. As Baldwin puts it, the two books: … were released at the height of [Rowling’s] popularity, and it was clear that no one dared edit The Sacred Word of Potter; as the result, the books were long, rambling, unfocused, and boring.

I’d stop short of saying the books were boring; however, I found it painful to find bloated narrative diluting what had previously been clean, lively writing — a sure sign that Ms. Rowling had succumbed to the same famous-author-no-longer-needs-an-editor syndrome that had taken down Anne Rice.

I found myself wishing that when Ms. Rowling had turned in her manuscript, a tough but kindly gentleman editor had sat down with her and said (in a British accent, of course): “See here, J.K., this is a lovely first draft, but you’ve got to cut it by at least a third. Go back to the basics, darling! Ask yourself sentence by sentence, can this be tighter? Can this be cut? Can this go away completely?”

No matter how good a writer is, no matter how brilliant the words, copy must be edited to make it clean, clear, and concise. There simply is no question about it. And writers who are offended by this step in the process are probably in the wrong profession.