Tag Archive for: credibility

Why you must proofread

Your eyes don’t catch all of your typos and neither does your spell-checking or grammar-checking software. On top of that, sometimes software suggests corrections that I can only describe as “humorous,” if not “pathetic.”

Why you must proofread infographic

You see what you expect to see

It’s hard for you to see your typos because your brain makes you see what you expect to see. For example, if you’re outside a movie theater, you’d probably read “Star Wa2s” as “Star Wars,” as Loretta Breuning says in Tame Your Anxiety. That’s because, as Breuning says, “defaulting to the familiar pattern seems so reasonable that you barely notice the difference between the actual input and the old pathway.”

For more on how this applies to typos, read “What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos” in Wired. (I didn’t quote the article because it spells “proofread” as two words, which is oh so wrong.)

Spell checkers miss homonyms and more

Spell-checking software can’t identify misplaced homonyms—words that sound alike but have different meanings. Words like “there” and “their” or “are” and “our.” I discuss another example in “Your spell checker doesn’t work so you must proofread.”

Spell checkers can also miss typos like writing “manger” for “portfolio manager.” Can you imagine opening a beautiful pitch book with “Jane Miller, portfolio manger” on the cover? That kind of typo can make prospects and clients worry that you’re not careful about more serious matters.

One of my newsletter readers shared a hilarious example in “Another reason to proofread: Broker example.” (By the way, to be fair, Microsoft Word, Grammarly, and PerfectIt all highlighted “manger” as a potential typo in my draft of this blog post.)

Spell checkers and grammar checkers also miss mistakes in sentences that are perfectly spelled and grammatical but make no sense at all—or that are too darned long.

Humorous “corrections”

Microsoft Word sometimes entertains me with ludicrous suggestions for “corrections.” For example, it suggested that I change “massage therapist” to “message therapist.”

A LinkedIn reader told me of an even stranger Microsoft suggestion. When he proofread a legal document, Microsoft Word suggested that he change “case law” to “casserole.” Wow!

The bottom line is that you can’t mindlessly accept “corrections” suggested by software.

Obvious mistakes hurt your credibility

When readers find obvious mistakes, they may think less of you. For example, they may worry that mistakes may reflect a lack of attention to detail that also shows up in how you manage their money.

What can you do?

I’m not suggesting that you give up on doing your own proofreading or using tools that check your spelling and grammar.

However, I also suggest that you get someone else to proofread your work, if possible. It’s great if you can hire a professional. If not, a colleague, friend, or member of your target audience can also help.

Another helpful complement to your own proofing and automated proofreading tools is to read your work out loud. If you’re like me, and you don’t enjoy the sound of your voice, use the text-to-voice function of Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat, as I describe on my blog.

Here are some more techniques, some of which I culled from “Six ways to stop sending emails with errors”:

  • Wait at least 24 hours before proofreading. You can look at your piece with fresh eyes.
  • Print out your piece. Consider using a different font or type size to make it look different from your original.
  • Read your piece from the bottom up. Starting with the last sentence and moving up sentence by sentence may disrupt your ability to anticipate what comes next. This may help you to find problems within individual sentences.
  • Create a checklist of common errors, as I’ve discussed in “5 proofreading tips for quarterly investment reports” and in the “Financial Blog Post Review” checklist in my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.


Bad images hurt credibility

Words aren’t the only thing that matter in using publications to build your credibility as a financial expert. Visuals matter, too.

If your publication’s images aren’t consistent with its text, they’ll sap your credibility.

Examples of credibility sappers

At the simplest level, the mistake could be an article that talks about a four-step process, but an image that shows five steps.

However, the four versus five issue is an example of a mistake that any proofreader could catch. Not every mistake is that simple.

I’ve seen an article about long-term care insurance that was illustrated by paper-doll-style cutouts of an umbrella held over two parents and two little kids. The illustration was attractive, but more appropriate for an article about life insurance than one about long-term care insurance, where most claims are on behalf of older adults. To me, that inappropriate illustration shouted, “I don’t understand long-term care insurance.”

Evidence of credibility boosting

According to the Neuromarketing blog’s post on “Persuade with Pictures”:

A new study shows that text is more credible when accompanied by photos, even when the photos don’t support the point of the text!

That statement disturbs me. However, the same article says that the images must be relevant:

Don’t use random stock photos only vaguely related to the message you are trying to convey. The persuasive photos in the study were specific, even though they didn’t actually have any value as proof of the statement.

Nielsen Norman Group, a highly credible source on website usability says in “Photos as Web Content” that its eye-tracking research has found that:

  • Some types of pictures are completely ignored. This is typically the case for big feel-good images that are purely decorative.
  • Other types of pictures are treated as important content and scrutinized. Photos of products and real people (as opposed to stock photos of models) often fall into this category.

Nielsen Norman’s bottom line: “users pay attention to information-carrying images that show content that’s relevant to the task at hand.” Those images also build credibility.

Forget stock photos

By the way, stock photos (as noted in Nielsen Norman’s second bullet) generally don’t get positive reviews. If you say that’s all you can afford, believe me, I sympathize. I often use stock photos for that very reason, although, fortunately, I have a virtual assistant who customizes some images for me.