Content Creation Must: Get Your Mind Into the Gutter

When creating content, it’s not just spelling, grammar, facts and compelling, quality writing that you need to worry about. There’s a danger lurking on the page that keeps writers and editors up at night with visions of their careers flashing before them.

Cat makes disgusted looking face over obscene contentNamely, the word “public”.

If you’re in the writing, particularly newspaper, business, you know why this is a scary word.

If you’re not, this word is easily misspelled as “pubic”. Imagine the horror of parents reading about their “pubic schools”! What makes this word especially terrifying is that “pubic” is a word, so spell check won’t pick it up.

And it’s not just that word that worries editors, but the similar potential for other words and phrases to come together in a similarly obscene way. On top of spell checking, grammar fixing and fact checking, it’s also the copy editor’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. (This is made more difficult by sneaky reporters who try to slip innuendo into their copy hoping editors will miss it. You know who you are!)

As a content creator, you need to prevent unintentionally obscene language, too.

Think dirty

There’s a saying in the news business: A dirty mind is a copy editor’s best friend.

If you don’t know what I mean, you probably haven’t seen this headline that I saw via Grammarly‘s facebook page: A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt.


If the person who wrote that only thought LONG and HARD … OK, moving on.

As hilarious as that headline is, you don’t want it to happen to you – or your company or client. You need to cultivate a dirty mind to create content that won’t offend, embarrass and/or get you fired.

Don’t worry, if you have trouble thinking filthy thoughts, there’s help for you. Play the game Dirty Minds, where participants are given obscene-sounding clues to guess an ordinary object. Heck those of us with a healthy dirty mind, should play it anyway because it’s a blast – and it’ll be harder for you to get past the dirty clues to guess a good, clean object!

If thought perversions are just beyond you, at least we all have a dirty-minded friend or co-worker to turn to. Ask this person to read your content before publishing to catch accidentally hilarious and/or offensive material.

Bottom line: Examine content long and hard before printing something that will have readers thinking about long, hard things.

Please share your own obscene-content mistakes and advice for preventing them. Thanks!

This post was inspired by my friend Kristyn Harvey LeBlanc, who shared Grammarly’s A-Rod headline with me, asking “Hey Ex-Journalist – Do these things really happen in the news world? Inquiring minds want to know.” They definitely do, Kristyn! And hopefully, with this post, it’ll happen less. Thanks for the inspiration!

Copywriting Confusion: Naturally, I’m Confused

I ran out of my favorite bars to eat every morning at work, so I swung into CVS for new ones. Well, they don’t carry my chewy peanut butter flavored Sunbelts so I settled for whatever chewy peanut butter bar I could find.

That happened to be this box of SnackWell’s:

SnackWell's box has confusing copywriting

OK, I’m checkin’ it out in my head: Hmm…SnackWell’s, eh, OK, whatever…Peanut Butter, yup, that’s what I want…Natural flavor with other natural flavor…ooo, 8gs of protein… Wait, wha-wha-what!? Did I read that right? *rereads* (probably aloud to be sure) “Natural flavor with other natural flavor!”


SnackWell's confusing copywriting says "Natural flavor with other natural flavor"

Natural flavor on packaging is confusing enough! Now there’s other natural flavor to wonder about?

All I can think about is tasting a bite, and musing aloud in a British accent, “Mmm, yeees. I taste a natural flavor …” *rolls it around on pallet, head and eyes tilted upward* “with just a hint of … what is it, exactly?” *deep, thoughtful expression and finger on chin* “Oh, yes, of course … other natural flavor.”

This is ridiculous!

So, NATURALLY, I had to buy it 1. to try this abundance of natural flavor and 2. to share this marketing quandary with others.

The flavor’s eh to me. I prefer my Sunbelts so I’ll stick to ’em when I can.

The marketing, however, is outrageous! I’m hoping this was a mistake – like they accidentally printed the filler text, forgetting to enter in what it’s actually supposed to say.

If the language in this marketing content is intentional, I don’t know what they’re trying to say and I don’t think any of their customers do either.

If you know what this means, please share!

A Career In a New Marketing Era Begins

I never thought I’d be one of those journalists who “sells out” to the Dark Side by switching to a marketing or public relations career.

I love newspapers and the important purpose they serve (we don’t do it for the money!) and I always wanted to be a part of that. Disseminating the news was a true passion, and the state of the newspaper industry drives me mad – and sad. Mostly sad.

I knew I needed to find something else before I was laid off. There’s just no way I could afford a house and family on a copy editor’s salary. Maybe if I waited around another ten years to become an editor, and hoped the furloughs stopped, I could afford those things, but who has that kinda time!? And that kinda hope!?

And so, with my newspaper days and dreams past, I’m on to a new adventure in marketing land.

Yay for Quality Content!

OK, for all my pious attitude toward marketing, it’s actually not that bad.

My journalism skills are highly sought in the marketing world as content marketing, brand storytelling and the like become more popular – and necessary – to every company’s ever-evolving SEO marketing strategy since changes to Google’s search algorithm makes great content critical.

As I write, Content Marketing World 2012 is happening.

I’m excited that I’ve come into the marketing field at the right time – when great content is key. Businesses are adapting to a consumer-driven environment. Nobody’s forced to watch ads anymore. We seek out what we want to read, so companies better make sure they’re creating engaging content.

Businesses have to produce content that consumers will seek out.

That means I don’t have to worry about being shady. I’m not in a career that’s trying to trick anyone. I love that search engines have made it difficult for companies to stuff a bunch of keywords onto a page that nobody wants to read in order to rank higher.

As Teressa Iezzi points out in The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era:

In the era of consumer control, consumers aren’t just consumers. They’re producers, they’re critics, they’re creatives … This is the essential shift that resulted from the digital revolution, and the essential truth that should inform the work of today’s copywriter.

Here’s to Marketing!

So, I’m excited about my future in marketing despite myself. Not only is there a huge push toward content that matters, but there are a lot of smart people to learn from out there, who are doing some really cool things.

Did I mention it’s fun? Umm, hello – social media marketing! I get paid to be on Facebook, Twitter and more. That’s crazy – and fun … and important marketing for every business.

Although I’m not saving the world (journalists like to think that’s what they’re doing – why do you think Clark Kent’s a reporter?) I’m still able to write and edit with a talented bunch of peers.

I can’t wait to see what’s next in my marketing endeavors, and I’d love to hear about yours. So, please, share some marketing inspiration!