How to avoid common consistency mistakes

I recently mentioned the importance of consistency, and then rediscovered this article about common consistency mistakes. As the article says, ‘the first line of defence against consistency errors is simply being aware of them’.

So, if nothing else, be sure to check these 10 things before sending your next email or submitting your next document:

  • Phrases in capitals
  • Hyphenated phrases
  • Heading case inconsistencies
  • Numbers in sentences
  • List or bullet punctuation
  • Table or figure labels
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation in tables
  • Capitalisation in tables
  • Hyphenation of compound modifiers

The original article includes examples of each type of error along with details of how frequently they occur. I’m not at all surprised to see capitalisation topping the list – this is one of my biggest bugbears. I’m not a fan of excessive capitalisation anyway but, if you must do it, do it consistently!

The article does recognise that not all inconsistencies are errors – sometimes there is a valid reason for a phrase to be capitalised or hyphenated in one situation but not in another. Unfortunately, I suspect (and the study confirms) that inconsistencies are more often accidental than intentional.

This study was carried out by Intelligent Editing, the producer of PerfectIt, a tool which I haven’t used. However, I have had a play with their free online consistency checker. Upload a document, and it very quickly generates a report highlighting the type and frequency of consistency mistakes. It doesn’t show you exactly where the mistakes are, it doesn’t correct them for you, and it only checks for a handful of the common mistakes (for a full check of all inconsistencies, you need the paid-for tool; the site includes a comparison table) – but it’s a handy extra check.

Image: Nutdanai Aphikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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