Unless you’ve unplugged, and haven’t been on social media this decade, you’ve probably seen the meme: “Commas save lives.” Underneath this headline are two phrases that read: “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” Funny.
What isn’t funny is how many egregious spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors—many much worse than a missing comma—continue to show up on brands’ social media platforms. They make marketers look careless at best, and downright dumb in the worst-case scenario. And if it’s bad enough, your gaffe could go viral.
For example: in a banner ad promoting personalized greeting cards, its copy crowed that the company was “always upholding the highest standards for every detail”—except, apparently, its advertising, because the word “detail” was misspelled.
Fast is good. Accurate is essential.
Of course, social media platforms demand that you get relevant content out there quickly—so with today’s tight deadlines and thin budgets, you may be tempted to leave proofreading out of your process and/or your estimate.
Our advice? Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. To review: don’t do it.
At Martino Flynn, we’re old school: we employ a full-time, dedicated professional proofreader. And based on the sea of red that consistently flows out of his pen onto our work, it’s money well-invested to protect brand identity—and integrity—for our clients.
Marketer, correct thyself.
Hey, we all make mistakes—we transpose two letters while hurriedly typing, or think we hit the space bar and didn’t. Those types of errors are easily found and fixed. We’re talking about thoughtless mistakes that make it look like you just don’t care. And we’re not advocating stiff, formal, by-the-book grammar. In this very post, you’ll likely find participles dangling and sentences that begin with “but.” But …
… even informal, contemporary copy needs to follow some basic rules. And the following are among the ones that are broken most often on social media:
- You’re kidding, right? Using the wrong form of “You’re” and “Your” has become so common, we fear that the AP Stylebook folks will just throw up their hands and declare that both are permissible in every usage. And that goes for “they’re” and “their,” “it’s” and “its,” and “to” and “too,” too.
- Exclamation points: just say no. It’s your ace in the hole—don’t play it unless you absolutely, positively need it. If you scream at your readers in every other sentence, nothing will stand out and they’ll stop listening. Besides, it makes copy sound like it was written by a 12-year-old. So unless you’re marketing to 12-year-olds, stop it!
- Companies are not people. You may well be as passionate about your company as you are about your second cousin Billy—but it’s not a living, breathing thing. So if the Acme Plunger Company announced record earnings, “it” announced them, not “they.”
- Apostrophes make things possessive, not plural. If you’re writing about two potatoes, it’s “potatoes,” not “potato’s.” But if you’re writing about the potato’s skin, then … aw, let’s call the whole thing off.
- Use “less” less, and “more than” more often. The “10 Items or Less” sign in every supermarket? It’s wrong. “Fewer” should be used with plural nouns—as in “10 Items or Fewer.” “Less” should only be used with singular nouns. Here’s a way to help you remember: if you want to drink less coffee, drink fewer cups of it—simple.
(And on a related note, a company hasn’t been serving its customers for over 20 years—it’s been serving them for more than 20 years.)
The shame of it all is that smart people are making these mistakes, probably because they’re going too quickly. But to meet the almighty deadline, they put themselves one unfortunate slip away from viral disaster. Adding just one hour for a trained proofreader to carefully examine copy and layout can make a world of difference.
But whatever you do—if you take only one thing from this post—remember that whenever you use the word “public,” triple-check that the “L” is, indeed, there.
Thanks in advance.