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Spellcheck Lies—Why You Must Proofread Your Travel Marketing Copy


I am a terrible writer. I admit it wholeheartedly, while also being slightly embarrassed by that admission.

However, I am a copywriter, someone who writes words that sell. I have to write.

As a travel entrepreneur, you are also a copywriter. Whether you are writing a social media post, a broadcast email, website copy, or your bio for a speaking event, you write words that sell you and your travel business. Even your one-to-one emails to your prospects and clients involve copywriting.

If you are writing words that sell, you can't afford to make mistakes. They can lessen the impact of what you write.

Yet we all make mistakes and have published mistakes more times than we'd like to admit.

I write "their" when I mean "there." I write "illicit" when I mean "elicit." I even cut and paste so much when I edit that I end up with duplicates of the same phrase and never notice. Someone must point it out to me when they proof or proofread my work. And that is after I have read the document aloud multiple times from start to finish!

Proofing your copy is a tedious task and one that seems less important nowadays with the miracle of spellcheck. Just click on spellcheck and let the machine do it for you. The only trouble is that spellcheck lies sometimes.

Never rely solely on a computer for your spelling and grammar checks. Here's why:

Proper Noun Problems

One of the most common problems with spellcheck is that it recognizes only a limited number of proper nouns, abbreviations, technical terms, and words from foreign languages. So, even when you use spellcheck, you still have to ensure that those words are spelled correctly.

Auto Incorrect

Spellcheckers locate misspelled words and correct them. Hopefully. At least that's what they're supposed to do. But this is terrible news if a spellchecker auto-corrects to the wrong word.

For example, if you're writing about "espresso" and mistakenly spell it "expresso," your spellchecker might give you a helping hand and make it into "express." It might turn your "definitely" into "defiantly," which could definitely confuse your readers.

Making Spellcheck Dumber

You may "train" your spellchecker if you consistently misspell a word. This is a natural function of most spellcheckers so that they can accept proper names and alternate spellings.

For example, if you write "color" as "colour," spellcheck may correct it the first time or two (if it's an American version). But as you consistently write it that way, it will eventually come to accept the fact and stop correcting you.

The danger is that if you keep misspelling a particular word, spellcheck may also follow your lead and misspell it.

Human vs. Computers

Incredibly frustrating to writers is the fact that spellcheck will sometimes mark something as incorrect that isn't. Who knows what's going on in your computer's algorithmic brain?

This leads to frustration as you look at the word or phrase, puzzle over it, and go on a web-wide quest to figure out how you're breaking the rules of English. All the while, you could've trusted your gut, and you'd be paragraphs down the page by now.

Spellcheck Checks Spelling—Only

Spellcheck does only one thing—it checks spelling. It can't do all of your proofreading for you because it operates under a limited set of rules. Grammar check is the same way. It can't handle complex sentences and can't understand context, both of which are important.

You should spellcheck and proofread. If possible, have a few others proofread your work as well. Writers don't do all their own proofreading. It's essential to get as many eyes as possible on your copy. Someone will catch what someone else missed.

That said, here are a few rules that have served me well. Don't get me wrong, I still have typos, but when followed, I am more confident in the drafts I produce.

Joshua's Copywriting Rules

  1. Get everything out of my head and on the screen, avoiding editing as I go. Editing as I go is when some of those errors I rarely catch tend to occur the most.
  2. Read my final draft out loud a few times. Not only do I catch errors, but I find some awkward sentences or phrasing that look fine on the screen yet don't work when read.
  3. Cut and paste every document into It catches some spelling and grammar issues, but it does a fantastic job of helping me choose better words or highlighting ways to phrase something better. Again, it isn't always right. I read through all the suggestions and pick which ones to accept.
  4. After editing my document, I paste it into Microsoft Word or Google Docs and run the spellchecker there. I have found that they catch things that Grammarly and I missed.
  5. Have two people proofread my document. I have tried just having one person proof, but I find that two give you a better chance for success. Maybe one of your proofreaders is excellent at the details, and the other is great at evaluating clarity and tone: the more eyes, the better.

In the end, my friend, keep writing copy. Hone your skills. They'll pay dividends.

And always have a quality assurance check as part of your process. The quality of what you publish sends positive or negative cues about your work and your attention to detail.


About the Author: Throughout his career, WorldVia/Travel Quest Network's Chief Marketing Officer, Joshua Harrell, has earned a formidable reputation as a trailblazing brand and marketing executive and genuine change agent in the space.