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Jul 19 / Zach Brown

A few extra minutes can be worth a few thousand reads

Zach BrownIf you’re reading this, odds are you’re in a similar situation to me: a college student or recent graduate looking to gain experience and add a few lines to your résumé.

Maybe you aced your way through college writing assignments with little effort. I usually waited until a few hours before an assignment was due to get started, then would whip up an “A” paper with little effort.

I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

A few weeks into Bleacher Report’s Advanced Program in Sports Media, a slideshow I put together called “Ranking MLB’s 10 Most Devastating Pitches” bombed. I spent a lot of time gathering the perfect YouTube clips, tweets and quotes to defend my points, but I was too confident in my own work and didn’t take the necessary time to proofread it.

Let me tell you, there is no worse feeling than getting an email from an editor that says, “Your article contained an excess of grammatical or typographical errors, thus violating our Content Standards.”

Though the editors fixed the mistakes, my article was shoved off the MLB homepage into Internet  purgatory. The hours I put in were wasted on a piece that has less than 200 reads.

And I should’ve known better.

If I had just taken a little more time to go back over my work—five more minutes to run spell check one more time—I could have saved myself from a lot of embarrassment and wasted time.

Instead I found out the hard way that I’m not perfect.

To make it this far, you have to be a damn good writer. But being a good writer isn’t good enough. You have to put in the time and energy on every step in the process. That means writing the perfect headline, crafting a top-notch article, using supportive media and, of course, proofreading meticulously.

What got me into trouble was trying to make last-minute changes to my article. Sure, I ran the spell check before posting, but it’s easy to miss the little things when correctly spelled players and team names are flashing bright yellow.

Spell check is a useful tool, but it’s not perfect.

The best practice is to do an old-fashioned line-by-line copy edit. It’s boring, it’s tedious, but it’s necessary.

Always remember that no matter how good you think your article is, it can always be better. It just takes a little time.

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Zach Brown is in the Summer class. Follow him on Twitter @SundayDriver7

One Thing You Need to Know is a series in which we ask members of the Bleacher Report Advanced Program in Sports Media to write about just that: One thing they’ve learned that they would pass along to other aspiring writers.


  • Tim Coughlin

    Great advice, Zach! Thanks for posting this.

  • Kaitlin Murphy

    This just happened to me. And, the whole “wait hours before” student mentality was definitely the main issue. Of course I took to the Internet to see if it had happened to anyone else. Good to know I’m not the only one. Thanks for writing!