A day in the life of a spellcheck

June 25, 2020 § Leave a comment

Teddy bares – or is it teddy bears? A spellcheck wouldn’t know

A client gave me an ebook to proofread the other day. In one sense there was NOTHING wrong with it. In another, there was SO MUCH wrong with it.

I could see straight away that it had gone through a spellcheck. There were tons of mistakes but each one, in itself, wasn’t a mistake.

For example, there were THREE Chapter Twos. ‘Chapter Two’ was spelt right every time so the spellcheck had done its job. The spellcheck doesn’t care that you’ve made a massive error, repeating the same chapter title three times. It cares that you’ve spelt Chapter Two properly. The spellcheck isn’t worried that your mistake has made you look amateurish and impacted on the index, knocking all pages out of order.

Customers will make up their own mind about you when they see the quality of your copy – even if writing has nothing to do with your business.

There was a variety of its and it’s, sprinkled throughout the text, randomly used wrongly – but, as far as the spellcheck was concerned, the words were spelt right every time.

Then there were the theres, theirs and they’res and the you’res and yours.

Most plurals were denoted by apostrophes – as in ‘client’s’ when it should have been ‘clients’. An apostrophe never, ever, ever – no exceptions – pluralises a word.

All language was Americanized even though this was a London-based company wanting to appeal to London-based customers. That’s also down to the spellcheck because many people use it without setting it to the right language.

I could go on but let’s just say punctuation and grammar left everything to be desired. There were few spelling errors but words were used in the wrong contest (I know that last word should be ‘context’ but I’m giving you an idea of where the spellcheck says ‘OK’ because it is OK as far as spelling is concerned.)

When I talked to the client about the extent of the damage, he said that it was probably a result of staring at the copy for so long to make sure the message was right.

I get that. The last person you should rely on to check and knock your copy into shape is YOU.

A personal touch in no-touch times!

April 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

Talk and write – you’ve got plenty of time

In difficult coronavirus times the personal ‘touch’ is more important then ever, although ‘touch’ is almost certainly not the right word. ‘Thought’ is probably better.

Technology is doing a fantastic job of keeping us in contact with family and friends – although not all of us. My elderly uncle is 85 (plonk in the at-risk group) and doesn’t own a computer, smartphone or tablet. He hasn’t a clue what wifi means. My aunt, his late wife, died five years ago and he hasn’t got used to living on his own, let alone given any thought to exploring technological opportunities.

Auntie Elsie was the glue in their marriage and used to invite us all round for the most fantastic roast or high-tea a couple of times a month. Uncle Ben slipped into the shadows after she died and we had to remember to call him – he never thought of phoning us.

The other day my brother and I were talking about buying him a tablet and getting wifi installed so that we could at least FaceTime him. But then we realised he’d need to be shown how it all works – there’s a lot to go through when you’re an absolute beginner – and we can’t visit and explain.

So – we’re continuing with phone calls and he’s happy with that. He likes to hear a friendly voice and, as it happens, we’re making more effort than we used to and are calling more often anyway.

But the whole Uncle Ben issue made me think about how we communicate these days.

Friends can whizz you a message by text, email, Facebook, Instagram and so on…in minutes. They don’t need to send birthday cards, postcards – or even Christmas cards to some extent- because a note on Facebook will do it for them.

I have no choice but to send Uncle Ben a proper birthday card because of the lack of wifi and it’s fun choosing a card that in some way touches on his life or personality.

Then there are letters. It used to be exciting to get a letter – sometimes challenging depending on the handwriting – but exciting all the same. The only letters I receive these days are from companies trying to sell me something and they’re typed, so in every way don’t count. Generally our first thought these days when we want to send a letter is to email it.

For as long as the post manages to keep going in these unsettled, unreal days I’ve decided to revert to letters and phone calls. (Ok – and blog! And Tweet sometimes…and text occasionally – but I am going to build letter-writing back into my life.)

Although I’ve grown up surrounded by electronic communication, I totally believe that the personal thought has to have a positive impact on these negative times.

If not now – when?

April 6, 2020 § Leave a comment

There’s never been a better time to do what you’ve always wanted to do

We’re in a horribly horrible situation. Coronavirus is hurting each and every one of us. By now we all have stories, either of lost loved ones or of loved ones lost – those living on their own and battling the pandemic alone.

So what to do? The answer has to be: not nothing!

When this chapter in history finally closes, let’s not have people saying ‘If only I’d used the time to…[whatever it is they suddenly realise they have always have wanted – to do]’

Now is the time to start thinking about all the things you’ve always wanted but never had the time to do, as well as the things that you know need to be done.

Suddenly we have too much time and we should make the most of it. You’ll never get that time back. Life hasn’t been given a pause button that you can neatly rewind to catch up on the stuff you haven’t been able to do.

The danger, for many people, is that the less you do the less you’ll want to do – which reminds me of the Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

It’s too easy, when you have no deadlines or structure, to fill up on daytime TV – and that’s if you’re out of bed in time for daytime TV because lie-ins have apparently also become hugely tempting.

Social media has been flooded with cartoons and quotes about people wearing pyjamas all day and possibly, just possibly, if they find the motivation, migrating from daytime to evening pyjamas.

On behalf of freelancers and home-workers everywhere, I’d just like to say: that’s not how we work!

The blog I recently wrote about writing the book you’ve always wanted to write talks about using your day to give it a go. But writing a book may not be your thing.

Perhaps you’ve always fancied learning magic tricks, or baking, or picking up the crochet project you thought you’d never finish or writing music. Writing a screenplay might interest you – or there may be some DIY jobs that you know need doing.

If you’re ever going to do any of these things, now has to be an ideal time to do them. And if not now – when?

Ok, the time’s not right if you want to improve your swimming. Or learn to drive or move house. Shelve those dreams for the time being.

Instead concentrate on what you can do and not what you can’t do.

Ditch trolleys. Baskets only from now on

March 23, 2020 § Leave a comment

Baskets only from now on
Supermarkets: Get rid of trolleys and make people use baskets

To properly limit food sales supermarkets need to get rid of trolleys so that customers can only shop with baskets.

Less food would fly off the shelves and certainly slower than at the current hysterical rate.

Supermarkets could easily have worked this out for themselves – so what am I missing?

The panic buying that’s going on is selfish and horrible. People are finding ways round the ‘limits’ that supermarkets are imposing on customers to make sure that their family is alright. They would prefer to take every member of the family, each of them to fill a trolley to the max, so that they have food, even though they know that it will deny NHS workers and the vulnerable basic and essential goods.

Therefore a ‘limit’ of 2 packs of toilet rolls becomes 8 or 10 packs of rolls per customer in reality when all the family have filled their trolleys.

I’m naive. I didn’t even realise that people were doing this until a sales assistant in Waitrose told me about it as I was looking at empty shelves. So the supermarket is well aware of what’s happening. I don’t want to single out Waitrose because I’m sure the the same is true of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and the rest.

I picked up another story (online so I know I’m not giving anything away) about people filling their trolley, leaving the supermarket to pack it all into the car and then going back in for more. Sales assistants wouldn’t actually remember the customer’s face – who anyway would probably choose another assistant to serve them or alternatively select self-checkout. And what could happen anyway if the sales assistant DID notice that the customer had returned?

Of course, customers will find a way round an attempt to limit food sales by shopping with baskets. But baskets will be much more inconvenient for them than loading up trolleys full of food and loo rolls.

Don’t let your mate proofread for you!

July 9, 2019 § Leave a comment

This is the true story of a guy who thought he could save a bit of money having his friend proofread a marketing newsletter for him – and is now counting the cost.

The guy’s an accountant who works on his own and wanted someone other than himself to look at the copy before he sent it out. (I agree it’s always a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes look at your copy because the author tends to read what they think they’ve written and not what’s actually there.)

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One of his mates (who really liked English at school….) offered to do a thorough job for him and the problems started as soon as the accountant shared the copy. The duo had ‘creative differences’ – also known as an argument  – about the way the copy should be written.

The end of the story is that I did the job – proofreading only -because Rob was adamant that his words (unless they were a complete pile of nonsense) stayed the same.

He explained the friend story to illustrate how important it was to him to have the spelling/typos/grammar checked but not to receive chunks of rewritten text because he was confident about that side of the newsletter.

He also hinted – and I have no problem with it – that because he was paying me for the service he expected the work delivered to his deadline and redone if he wasn’t happy with it. If your mate’s helping you out, how good to you feel taking him to task if he takes a week when he promised to take a day?

So by commissioning a professional proofreader he didn’t damage a friendship. He’s still wrestling with an explanation for not accepting the many changes to the copy that his friend suggested. He feels he’s nearly out of a pickle – but not quite.

 

 

The secret language of the written word

April 29, 2019 § Leave a comment

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When you speak to someone they know what you’re saying because they can hear the words and, importantly, how you’re saying them.

When you text someone they can’t always be sure of what you’re saying – or, at least, exactly what you mean – because they can see the words but can’t hear the tone of voice behind them. So your innocent reply can be misread.

The same goes for content on a website. It’s a real craft to write content that’s friendly, appealing and easy-to-understand-in-one-reading.

Going back to text messages, I received one the other day from a friend who was replying to a ‘Happy Birthday’ text I’d sent her. It said: “Many thanks” which I thought was a stilted and corporate reply between two good friends. To be honest, I worried about it over a cup of tea and wondered what could be wrong – I’d got the right date, sent her a card as well (and in time) and my text to her was just the cherry on top.

It turned out, I discovered some days later, that she’d been at the hospital accompanying her mum to an appointment and had just been called in when my message pinged through. Rather than not answer it she dashed a reply to acknowledge it – a message that led me to worry for days because it didn’t sound rushed, just formal.

In the scheme of life, a slightly misunderstood text message is not so damaging because you can put it right quickly. Reality is that if you’re texting, you’ll also have the recipient’s number so that you can call to check out the meaning of something you’ve received, if it doesn’t sound quite right.

Not so simple is the website example. Many, many people will visit your site and it’ll be a long time – if ever- that you find out they’re not responding to it because they don’t understand what you’re saying. You won’t have the telephone number of everybody who visits because you don’t know who they are.

The fact here is that website content is best written by someone who initially doesn’t know your business, has to ask loads and loads of questions to understand it and then can craft good written copy to make it sound friendly, appealing and entirely understandable – without the visitor even having to try to work out what it means. I can help you with that – 07946 450708 or send an email to julie@bowlerhatmedia.co.uk.

New data act didn’t do much, did it!

November 15, 2018 § Leave a comment

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There was a lot of fuss about GDPR (the new data act) and it was brought into being for all the right reasons. Data about you and me was too easily found and shared, partly because our details are available on the internet and partly because companies ‘assumed’ the right to share information. The latter resulted in the suicide of the 92-year-old poppy seller who received 3,000 requests in a year for donations from charities to the point where she felt too overwhelmed and distressed.

The new data act – the biggest change to the control of information for 25 years – is governed by rules to ensure individuals aren’t swamped by calls they haven’t asked for or agreed to.

What’s happened since GDPR was introduced? 

The very important thing that hasn’t happened is that our lives haven’t suddenly been relieved of those faceless, nameless, numberless calls from companies talking to us about the car accident that we haven’t been involved in!

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I was in an antique shop the other day when a dealer was asking another if he was still getting those calls because she’d just had one. I jumped into the conversation to tell her that I still get them.

I got an email yesterday from ‘Retired Millionaire’ who’s ‘super excited’ to introduce me to a crazy cash-making scheme.

Today somebody emailed me to say I’ve been ‘chosen’ to receive £1,500 – but I need to give them a bank of information before I get it, of course…

And this blog post/rant was provoked because I just received a call from someone telling me that they’ve received reports showing that my computer has been giving off dodgy readings – but they can fix it for me thankfully….

So GDPR hasn’t got the chancers

I’m amazed that contact like those I’ve described still goes on (or even did in the first place) but I suppose they’ll eventually hit upon someone who has been in a car accident and will take part in the conversation. Or they’ll phone someone who’ll believe that their computer efficiency can be improved by the person who has phoned them out of the blue. That must be the case otherwise these calls wouldn’t exist.

But sadly, while GDPR has been no deterrent to the chancers, it’s scared some charities silly and one I work with refuses to contact members who haven’t completed a ‘Yes, contact me’ form properly. Charities face fines of up to 4 per cent of their turnover or €20m (£18m), whichever is larger.

What’s it done for me?

I’m annoyed beyond reason when I get a chancer on the other end of the phone and I still get them – so I believe the GDPR hasn’t done much for me at all.

I’m sure GDPR has made legitimate companies more careful in their communication but it’s ‘other’ companies that are the bugbears of most people’s lives and it’s the ‘other’ companies that simply don’t care.

Spot the Typos

March 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Here’s a piece of text with 10 typos. See if you can spot them all.

How to complain with class

There are some people who are never satisfied and who kick off at every opportunity. Then there are those who are as silent as a stealth bomber but when they blow, they really loose their rage.

Always try to be the latter. If you cry wolf to often people won’t listen when theres a real emergency. First stop and count to 10. Do you have ground for complaint? Be very friendly, present the problem and ask what they can do to assist you. You don’t want to alienate your target. Get them to empathize.

Complain in a slow, low voice. If you start at a screach you’ll have nothing to work up to. Never get too irate and don’t lose the sight of the fact that your the victim. Always get the name of the person who is not assisting you and ensure them you will be contacting their boss.

 

When you’ve noted down your answers, you can check them here

 

 

I could of screamed…

January 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

…when I realised how many people actually thought ‘of’ was the right word to put before ‘screamed’ in that sentence!

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We live in a world where there are so many opportunities (texts/Facebook, for example) for people to prove that they didn’t listen much in their English class – where the teacher would have taught them to write ‘have screamed’. Am I sounding a bit old-school? Can’t help it.

Another howler that drivers me bonkers is the mess that’s made with there, their and they’re. I’m not going to insult anyone by explaining what each of them means because I’m sure everyone knows, they just don’t bother to choose the right one and select any old right-sounding ‘there’ in the belief it will ‘do’ Well, it won’t – for me  or for many others who are particular about the language. Same muddle goes for too and to – two is stretching…

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You can’t call this marketing!

August 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

StressI mentioned the other day how difficult it is to unsubscribe from certain emails – some being more persistent than others. And I’ve found a real ‘pulling-your-hair-out’ corker here.

For starters the email is in Spanish so, not being a Spanish speaker, it’s of absolutely no use to me whatsoever. I thought I’d better finally unsubscribe rather than just delete because I’m getting an increasing number of these Spanish emails seemingly about different products. (I wouldn’t know, would I, cos I can’t talk the lingo.)

In fact I had to guess the ‘unsubscribe’ link which I did I was taken to a page that suddenly was a tad more helpful ONLY in that it translated for me.

But then…instead of the usual stuff (this may take blah,blah hours. Thank you for your patience, etc) I got this:

EMAIL TO UNSUBSCRIBE:

TO ENSURE THE PROPER MANAGEMENT OF ARCO RIGHTS (ACCESS, RECTIFICATION, CANCELLATION AND/OR APPOSITION) YOU SHOULD CONTACT THE DATABASE’S OWNER, WHOSE CONTACT DETAILS ARE PROVIDED BELOW.
UNSUBSCRIBE: BAJAS@ARKEERO.COM

Yes I have emailed and I haven’t received word back as yet – but just wanted to share. The cheek of it and really, what’s the point? Why am I on a foreign language marketing list – that wants to make it difficult for me to unsubscribe??

You can’t call this decent marketing – or marketing at all, actually.

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