editing content marketing

The Hallmark Channel recently released this movie called The Makeover. A modern-day version of My Fair Lady, the film stars Julia Stiles, and her character is a politician whose grammar is absurdly immaculate. Her character says things such as, “Everyone can do his or her part,” and “The person with whom I talked…”

Even though copy editing is my job, I don’t think anyone should feel the need to talk this way. But if you’re a content marketer, you should probably take the same amount of care when you’re editing your blogs. One study conducted by a businessman in the U.K. reported that spelling mistakes on his site led to the loss of millions of pounds. So to keep you from suffering the same mistake, here are 5 content editing lessons, as taught by popular TV shows.

1.) You Think You Know, But You Have No Idea: Spelling

“You think you know, but you have no idea” was the catchphrase of Diary, MTV’s celebrity video diary series. The show used the motto to point out how different stars’ lives are from what people imagine. But this statement describes editing pretty well, too.

You can hear and use certain words in everyday speech, but when it comes time to write them out, you may have no idea how to spell them. For example, just the other day, I had to look up whether the title of John Hughes’ film was spelled 16 Candles or Sixteen Candles. And whether the name of that video game was Assassin’s Creed, Assassins Creed, or Assassins’ Creed.

Thank God for Google and the reputable news sites that educate me on these things. Again, I repeat: reputable news sites. (In other words, not Wikipedia.)

You may experience the same problem with compound nouns or adjectives, like “skill set” or “flat-screen.” If I hadn’t just written them out first, would you have known whether the words in these terms had a space or a hyphen between them? If not, the Merriam-Webster website should be your new best friend.

2.)  Marcia, Marcia, Marcia: Repetitiveness

Sure, Jan Brady suffered from Middle Child Syndrome, but maybe her family would have paid more attention to her if she didn’t repeat herself so much. You don’t want your readers to click away because they feel you’re wasting their time. Check your content for repetitive words and phrases and replace them. For example, let’s say you want to shorten the following sentence.

Using room spray to make your house smell better is a great idea. Use it sparingly, though, so that the scent doesn’t overwhelm your guests when they walk through the door.

You could it change it to something like this:

Using room spray to make your house smell better is a great idea. Don’t spray too much, though. The scent may overwhelm your guests when they walk through the door.

Also, be on the lookout for sentences that are repetitive in meaning and delete them. They don’t add anything to what you’re saying.

3.) Be Like Sheldon Cooper: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Knock knock knock. “Penny!”

Knock knock knock. “Penny!”

Knock knock knock. “Penny!”

Treat reading over your content the way Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory treats knocking—something you can’t do only once. When you’ve finished reviewing your content, read over it at least one more time. You’ll often find a mistake that you missed the first time around, or you might find a mistake in one of your own corrections. In which case, you may feel like Steve Urkel: “Did I do that?”

4.) Take Charge Like Walter White: Make Executive Decisions

“You clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in: I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger.”
-Walter White, Breaking Bad

Whatever you think of Walter White, you can’t argue that he isn’t a take-charge sort of guy. If you’re the sole person responsible for reading over content, or you’re the one who decides what your company’s style should be, you should be the same way—minus the drug dealing and violence.

Will you follow The AP Stylebook to a tee, or will you deviate from it a little? For example, The New York Times follows AP style and places movie titles in quotation marks. Time Magazine uses italics. You’re in charge of making these kinds of decision and making sure that the style stays consistent when you edit content. Don’t place the title The Lord of the Rings in italics one day, and quotation marks the next.

5.) D’oh!: Don’t Sweat The Things You Miss

No matter how hard you try to make something the most sparkling content ever, it will happen to you at some point. You’ll look over some content that you worked on last week and notice a mistake you didn’t catch while reviewing it. Either that, or a reader will point it out to you.

Even the most eagle-eyed of people will miss a typo or grammatical error here or there, so don’t sweat it. Correct the mistake, thank the reader if you need to, and do what Homer Simpson would do: Eat a donut and move on.

What tricks do you use when you’re editing your content?