Microsoft Word is not a competent proof-reader. It should be the first lesson for the Copywriting 101 course. So here it is again…
Microsoft Word is not a competent proof-reader.
If you’re relying on Bill Gates’ finest to vet your work before sending it on for client-scrutiny or for publication, you are setting yourself up for a fail – and you probably shouldn’t be a copywriter to start with. The F7 test is OK as a first line check but don’t think that it covers all your errors. MS Word doesn’t understand style, semantics or subtext. In fact, it struggles to understand irony (but that’s probably because it was designed by Americans) and if you rely on its suggested amendments alone, you’re probably the type of person who shouldn’t peel a banana without adult supervision.
There is no foolproof way to write error-free copy but there is a way to catch those mistakes. Print your copydeck and read it with a pencil (for those of you born after the release of Mandela, they’re wood and graphite writing implements. You hold them in one hand and…actually, go ask your parents about pencils). That means sitting and pointing at each word with said pencil as you read the copy out loud. Reading the copy “in your head” is no good. Your brain will edit and ignore any mistakes as you run through the script – especially if there’s a lunch break, hot date or cold beer pending. If you’re employed as a copywriter and have any real measure of competency, 99 times out of 100 you’ll be fine. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to hit that one time where you missed a word or misplaced an apostrophe.
I can already hear the voices of protest. “I have deadlines!” “I finished top of my class and I don’t need to do this!” “I don’t have time for this!” “I hate bananas!”
So here’s the out you’ve been waiting for: if you have never made a mistake (copy-related or other) in your entire life to date, then close this window and ignore this article. Such mere mortal trivialities are not for you. For the rest of you, put down the banana, buy a pencil and learn some time management skills.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Just so you know, I’ve been guilty of not taking my own advice from time to time. Experience is an unforgiving teacher.