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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

Just one letter is all it takes

Updated: Feb 25

It's funny how it only takes one letter to change the meaning of a word. 

The other day, I remembered a humorous story from about 15 years ago.

My daughter and I were on an international trip for her 16th birthday, and one of our stops on the tour was Paris.

We were at our hotel, and our room had no toilet paper. So, I went down to the concierge to ask for a roll. In the challenge of communicating between languages, where I thought I was asking for a roll of bathroom tissue, the concierge clarified that I was requesting access to an adult film.

I hastily corrected the situation and headed back upstairs with my needed item. But it was certainly curious how something as simple as bathroom tissue could be confused for something I have ZERO use for. 

So the other day, on a LinkedIn post, there was another conversation about what a difference just a letter or two can make when you're a business providing content to engage with your customers.

And I think it's best explained by the person who commented, so take it away Gabriella Sterio.

“I once pointed out that ‘penne arrabbiata’ was spelled incorrectly on a menu board. It was 'pene arrabbiato.’ If you understand Italian, you'll know it's the last thing you want on a menu!”

Understanding what my mom is saying when talking to me is getting more challenging. Sometimes, she can read words on a page or a sign, which come out perfectly fine.

But when she tries to pull the words out of her head, they sound like the language of Tolkien. The words are ones I've never heard of, if they're even considered words at all.

The sad part is she seems to know that what she's saying most of the time isn't an accurate word for what she's trying to say.

And that's what makes dementia so challenging. At certain stages, the person seems to know that things aren't right, but their brain processes things so differently that they don't acknowledge it or attempt to correct it anymore.

As I work through trying to understand my mom's struggles with vocabulary in dementia, I find that the importance of being able to communicate well is even more emphasized.

In my role as an editor, I aim to bring clarity and accuracy to my clients' content, bridging the gap between their intentions and their writing.

They don't have the time to ensure that every word is accurate or correct, and that's where we come in as editors.

Even when the correction can appear insignificant in the whole scheme of the overall text, it could very well make or break a client’s credibility. Not to mention cause harm to the team of marketing specialists. 

For example, a piece of content I worked with last week had this issue. 

In this episode of the International Investment Pioneers podcast, Dan Burgess, CEO of Ridgeway, sat down for a conversation with Han Van Ich, CEO of VanIch, a roughly $50 billion multi-asset firm headquartered in London.* 

In this example, the person's last name, “Van Ich,” was spelled incorrectly, sorta. The name is spelled “van Ich.” So, for the team of marketing copywriters, it was just a very simple oversight to leave the spelling as “Van Ich” and have it match the name of the company. However, this would have been incorrect and not gone over too well with the client. 

As editors, we are the keepers of accuracy. Even a small correction can be critical to a client's credibility and copy integrity. We ensure every word aligns with truth and resonates with the audience. So, it’s crucial to partner with an editor who double-checks facts and names in the copy.

I try to remember this daily when working on copy for my clients. After all, I definitely don’t want a misplaced letter to turn into ‘pene’ on the menu!

*(For confidentiality purposes, all names have been changed.)

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