Errors in Copy and How to Avoid Them

Anyone who has ever been to a baseball game might wonder why the game uses the word ‘errors’ instead of mistakes.  The reason comes down to the definitions of the two words; anyone can make a mistake, but those who know better for whatever reason commit errors.  In this sense, a professional is not expected to make the same mistakes again and again, or to make basic mistakes that they are already aware of.  In short, if you should know better, then it is an error.

Texts riddled with errors erode trust, and that in turn reduces the likelihood of a conversion.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to figure out which mistakes you are making and how to rectify them as quickly as possible.

Copywriting Errors 101

Here are some of the most common errors I see, and how to avoid making them again:

  • Than vs. Then – I see this error all the time, and it is simply fixed.  Then is used to describe events that happen in a logical sequence while than is used for comparisons.  I woke up then went to IHOP for breakfast.  I think IHOP tastes better than Denny’s.
  • Could of vs. Would of vs. Should of – Many people tend to think of language in much the same way as they speak it, instead of how it is written.  Could of is correct if you are talking about possibilities that are not past, but would of and should of are incorrect.
  • Its vs. It’s – It’s only means it is.  The possessive form of it is its without the apostrophe.  It’s hot today.  Microsoft lost its battle with hackers today.
  • Loose vs. Lose – Sometimes one little letter can make a huge difference.  Loose is only used when something is not sufficiently tight, and lose means to misplace.  The screw is loose, so be sure not to lose it!
  • Averse vs. Adverse – Here’s another case where a single letter makes a big difference.  Averse indicates a reluctance while adverse describes conditions that are difficult or unfavorable.  I am averse to investing in stocks at the moment.  The adverse weather conditions make building a house in the winter a challenge.
  • Myself and Yourself – The only times you would use myself and yourself is when you are referring to an action that involved the same party.  For example: I then checked myself for injuries, did you check yourself?  It is incorrect to say things such as: Myself, I like beer!  Or, the incredibly common: what about yourself (unless some sort of self-evaluation or self-action was implied).
  • Different than – Never ever use this.  Period.  Instead, use different from.
  • Latin lessons for i.e. and e.g. – i.e. is only used for situations in which you are rephrasing something, and e.g. is only used when an example is being offered.  Bob has a problem getting his soldier to salute, i.e., erectile dysfunction.  Bob has found a few cures for his problem, e.g. medicine A, or magazine B…
  • Compliment vs. Complement – A compliment is something nice somebody communicates about somebody else, but a complement is something that augments something else.  I gave Adam Baird a compliment about this smashing new web design.  I feel that his talent for making amazing looking websites could complement many businesses that I know.
  • Criterion vs. Criteria – A criterion is a single condition, and criteria describes multiple conditions.  For example, the one criterion to making me happy is good food.  The criteria for writing effective copy are: A, B, C, this, that, the other thing, and so on…
  • Farther vs. Further – Farther is a measure of distance while further is used to talk about an extension of time or a degree that is not measured in linear distance.  How much farther is it to Tempe?  How much further will we have to wait for new episodes of Family Guy?  How much further could your business go if you put all of these copywriting rules to work for you?
Error socks

Remember, Only You Can Prevent Errors

Now that you have seen some of the more common errors, it is up to you to do something about it.  If your copy is riddled with these mistakes and you are wondering why your conversion rate is not much higher, then you have should probably your answer: your copy contains too many errors to be credible with its audience. You are only going to catch errors by reading your work, but even then errors might still slip through.  Some writers read their work backwards, a sentence at a time in order to stay sharp.  Professional authors and journalists rely on other people to edit their content, primarily because some people are just innately predisposed to subconsciously glossing over their own errors instead of fixing them.

Do you have any other copywriting errors you would like to share with AoB and our readers?  If so, feel free to use the comments section.

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Written by

Chad Weirick is a global traveler, ghostwriter, teacher, and father. His hobbies include reading, languages, mixed martial arts, photography, digital media, blogging, and spending time with his family.

Comments

  • Jordan Francis says:

    Good article =)

    Another common error in copy is Effect versus Affect. These two are tricky to understand (for me…) though in short, Affect is about “influence” and Effect is the “result.”

    Of course, there’s also spelling to consider. Here’s an enjoyable page I found last night on the subject (the page design is beautiful also) — http://iampaddy.com/spell/

    —Jordan

  • Another common error (one that drives me crazy when I see them misused) is THERE, THEIR, and THEY’RE.
    THERE in or at that place ( opposed to here): She is there now.
    THEIR a form of the possessive case of they used as an attributive adjective, before a noun: their home; their rights as citizens; their departure for Rome.
    THEY’RE contraction for They are.