Last month, ESPN sparked outrage when it ran the headline “Chink in the Armor” under a picture of Jeremy Lin, the surprise NBA whiz kid who happens to be Asian American. The incident reflected poorly on the network, a juggernaut in the sports world, and led to the firing of the editor who penned the headline.
In all likelihood, ESPN will be strong enough to withstand the storm. Here’s how to make sure you don’t make a similarly devastating mistake in your web copy.
- Hire an editor and / or proofreader. Even if you’re in the do-it-all-yourself phase of your business, the benefit of an editor or proofreader is immense—and because many editors work on a freelance basis, you can bring one on your team without committing to a full-time employee. A second pair of eyes on your copy will help you avoid any glaring errors of grammar and spelling as well as gaffes and unintended innuendos that can send off the wrong signal.
- Plan your content. Deciding what to write ahead of time saves you from overworking our brain when it’s time to actually sit down and get the words on the screen. Plus, when you establish your content themes before you sit down to write them, you won’t have to worry about that three-in-the-morning brain fog that can prevent you from seeing otherwise obvious mistakes.
- When in doubt, play it safe. Not sure whether that title is brilliant or bonkers? Go with a less-catchy, less-risky version. We all lose perspective on our own work after a while, so run any “out on a limb” ideas by a trusted ally before publishing.
- Be prepared to take action. If you do end up tripping up, be ready to take steps to rectify the situation. ESPN fired one writer and suspended a radio host who used the same offensive phrase. Even if it means taking a hit in the short term, honest apologies and amends for your mistakes will help you build your brand in the long run.
Have you ever committed a Lin-type gaffe?
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