A Quality Control Checklist for All Your Writing

SHCOOL is painted along the newly paved road leading to Southern Guilford High School on Drake Road Monday, August 9, 2010, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/News & Record, Joseph Rodriguez) **MANDATORY CREDIT***

How many times today did you click "send," "post," "tweet" or "publish" without submitting your work to a thorough read-through? Perhaps as many times as you clicked those buttons.

You know you're playing a dangerous game. You might as well be walking across a city street blindfolded.

Each of us who writes for a living—PR pro or journalist—has his or her blind spots, common mistakes that sabotage our brilliant and pedestrian written expression. For instance, I tend drop words that I'm thinking but not actually typing, and once it's out there in an email I can't get it back. I'll write "thing" when I meant to write "think," and "you're" when I meant to write "your." Being aware of you're blind spots doesn't mean necessarily that your catching these common errors in your own writing.

You also might have blind spots of which you're completely unaware. Most people who randomly capitalize words don't realize they're littering their copy with errors that can dismay some readers.

Try printing out and using this quality-control checklist for PR writing, compiled by Lynsey Burgess, senior associate for Seattle-based agency PRR, for PR News' upcoming Writer's Guidebook Vol. 2. Be sure to add your writing peccadilloes to the list.

  1. Have you used spell check?
  2. Have you manually checked for typos?
  3. Does your work use AP style and, if applicable, your client or company style guide?
  4. Are dates, times, locations, addresses, names and other applicable details correct?
  5. Can you delete extra words or sentences?
  6. Do you have unnecessary commas? What about serial commas or comma splices?
  7. Are any words capitalized that don't need to be?
  8. Have you checked apostrophes for possession versus contraction?
  9. Are you consistent in voice, tense and point of view?
  10. Is the most important information up front?

Add items to this list whenever your writing comes back to haunt you.

Check out all of PR News' guidebooks for communications professionals.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI