Category Archives: Proofreading

How Antonin Scalia Lost His ASSoL

George Mason University recently coined this embarrassing new acronym for its law school, no doubt in haste and out of gratitude for $30 million in donations that flowed in after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died.

It may be another example of a simple failure to proofread.

When the new name, “Antonin Scalia School of Law,” leaked, people were quick to realize it could form the acronyms ASSoL or ASSLaw. Apt for those who consider the description fitting for Scalia and his profession, but probably not what the deep-pocketed donors had in mind.

I lay some of the blame on academia’s devotion to passive voice, with its ability to add wind to almost anything.

Take, for example, the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Since it’s understood a university is a school, they could drop “School of” and lose no meaning.

Similarly, GMU couldn’t resist “School of Law.”

The quick fix was to eliminate the passive and create the abbreviation ASLS — Antonin Scalia Law School.

It’s common to call everything an acronym these days, but the subtle difference with abbreviations is that an acronym creates a word you can say, and an abbreviation doesn’t. For example, you must pronounce each letter of these abbreviations: FBI, IBM, CIA, and TSA.

But comedians could still make an acronym of ASLS. It would be pronounced “assless,” which isn’t much of an improvement.

In the end (pun intended), Scalia in death has managed to put George Mason between a $30 million rock and hard place.

 

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How to Make the Leap from “Good Enough” to “Great!”

In any business communication to customers, prospects, or employees, the difference between mediocre and memorable writing is enormous.

Mediocre writing can make readers dismiss your message as junk, but clear, incisive writing has the power to boost your credibility and make your organization a trusted expert and industry leader.

Which image would you prefer?

This is how many companies end up with communications that are just “good enough”:

  • Competent in-house writers are unaware there’s an important distinction between composition and copywriting, so they write marketing materials all about what you do and how great you are — and they fall flat.
  • Brilliant engineers write technical descriptions of great products, but without editing for the target audience, readers scratch their heads and ask, “So what?”
  •  Typos appear in expensive, glossy brochures, newsletters, and website text because nobody took time for proofreading. Simple mechanical mistakes aren’t just embarrassing — they erode credibility on every level.

Every waking moment, people are bombarded with meaningless words and tune them out.

That’s why your words must matter. Your message must be sharp enough to cut through information overload.

I have helped many businesses improve their:

  • Ad copy
  • Blogs
  • Brochures
  • Direct mail
  • Internal communications
  • Manuals & user guides
  • Marketing collateral
  • Newsletters
  • Website content

First, I help you pinpoint your target audience, then I learn about your products and services so we can figure out exactly what you want readers to know about them — in language they can understand — so they’ll remember and choose to do business with you.

If you plan any investment in graphic or Web design, printing, or postage, you owe it to yourself to get the most for your money with writing that’s not just good enough, but Great!

Why Proofreading Should Never be Optional

I was recently looking for a new healthcare provider and responded to a well-written, slickly produced brochure I received in the mail. The practice sent me an impressive “Welcome” package that contained two paperback books, which both appeared to be self-published.

One was a thoughtful, substantial work by the physician about his specialty. As self-publishing goes, it was impressive, but there were a few typos. Not a big deal.

The other book was a collection of first-person patient testimonials, accompanied by their full names and, in some cases, photos.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I found typos, usage errors, spelling, and punctuation problems on virtually EVERY PAGE.

The question it raised was, “How can a doctor take such pride in helping his patients feel better, and then leave them swinging like semi-literates in the breeze in PRINT?”

When I met the physician, he was bright and articulate, and I think flummoxed when I told him those testimonials don’t project the image of his practice that he undoubtedly had in mind.

He said, almost apologetically, “Well, they made all those mistakes.”

Obviously.

Since these weren’t professional writers, they probably assumed that this highly educated man would fix their mechanical errors and present their stories in the best light.

I’m guessing he saw it as a matter of honor to publish their words verbatim. But, unless there’s some legal consideration, it’s NEVER a good idea to leave in mistakes that make the writer look careless, inept, or downright ignorant. It makes you look just as bad — maybe even worse if you spent a small fortune having those errors preserved in a book.

ALWAYS proofread and clean up the wording. Every mistake you let stand detracts from your own credibility.