Political Correctness

It’s election season and my snail-mail is full of flyers and postcards from candidates, mostly for Boise mayor and city council positions.

Can you see why, as a writer and editor, I’d have a hard time voting for the person who sent this one? Look closely.

It’s an error I’ve corrected in many a sentence over the years – the use of reign (what kings and queens do over their monarchies) for rein (what the rider pulls on to get a horse to slow down).

Goofs like this do more than damage your credibility. They also distract readers from the point you’re trying to make and might even give your opponents fodder for jokes at your expense. And yet, errors are understandable – the busier you are, the more likely you are to skim draft documents and assume a word or a comma is there when it isn’t.   

So, candidates take note: Please have someone on the campaign staff who can give every piece of printed or online documentation a thorough read, with an eye for these details.

If you don’t have the budget for it, at least acquaint yourself with some basic proofreading guidelines online. I like these, from the Houston Chronicle’s Small Business publication, and a summary of tips, Proofreading for Common Errors by Suzanne Gilad, the author of Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies (Wiley, May 2007).

I’m sure it’s hard enough to run for office without criticism “reigning” down on you for incorrect word usage! But unlike so many challenges for today's politicians, at least this one is easy to conquer.