7 reasons you need a proofreader

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 6th March , 2019 in Copywriting, Editing & Proofreading
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Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House, wrote a book about the English language. I’ve been so impatient to get my hands on it I’ve been hanging around the gate waiting for the Amazon box like a dog overdue for a walk — lots of pacing, a fair bit of whimpering and just a little drooling. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about a book. I even tweeted about it.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style is a romance novel for word nerds. As someone who is happiest sitting in my office, arranging words on a page — or rearranging someone else’s words — this book reminded me I was part of an interdependent tribe all working towards the same goal: to write better.

The writing perfection trap

Notice I didn’t say the goal is to write perfectly. No writer or editor would ever demand that. Writing is a creative process with so many ways to express yourself.  Putting a perfection mandate on the craft would kill all the fun of writing. In my opinion, it would take a lot of the fun out of reading, too.

We’re all writing, all the time. We’re pecking out text messages, firing off social media posts, and hammering away at email. For those of us working in marketing, the writing task is more consuming as we grapple with how a business communicates to humans. It becomes more complicated because how you write reflects on the quality of your business, regardless of the type of business you’re working in.

Is proofreading necessary?

Take for example, this howler from a freelance writing group. Would you ever consider working with someone who didn’t understand the basic concepts of their profession? Of, if they do understand the basics, can’t be bothered to adhere to them in a peer networking group?

Internet meme saying "hey hey wordsmiths, so fun thread. Where did you found your very first client/work? And how much was your rate?" It's ironic because it contains an error.

 

If you’re writing English as a second language (ESL), you have your own challenges. I have no idea what’s in those meat rolls advertised by a humble restaurant in my neighbourhood but it does make me wonder — wonder if I should ever go back. It also makes me feel a little bit sick to my stomach.

Images of bread rolls with the the caption: Roasted vege roll of two laughing dogs. Almond milk cap is good again and her roll is amazing, Sooooo good. I am trying less carb diet now but I can't stop eatting. Especially this humble looking bread is great. mmmm." This copy needed a good proofreader.

 

I even see obvious errors in company branding, even large company branding, and it makes me wonder if anyone is reading their own copy? Or is anyone reviewing email? This email signature has a spelling error in the first line and a capitalisation error in the second. Both lines have punctuation errors. And it’s only two lines long!

The text should say "customer service specialist Fremantle Beach, Queen Street, Fremantle, WA 6160" but there is a spelling mistake in "specialist".

 

Or this text from one of my service providers with an obvious grammatical error:

Text says "Hello Sarah Mitchell. Here is your mentions for yesterday about your alert". This is barely English and needed a good proofreader.

 

I’m not about to name and shame any of these businesses. The point I’m trying to make is there is a plethora of mistakes being made, from laziness or ignorance — or both. In the four examples I’ve provided — all collected in the last 24 hours — each of them is reflecting poorly on their brand.

How proofreading improves quality

There is an answer to quality writing and it’s about as painless as you can imagine. Hire someone to proofread everything you send out to customers. Get someone to check all the copy on your website. Have them review your company branding. And, for the sake of all us word nerds, please get someone to proof things you’re publishing for your customers to read, especially blog posts and newsletters.

A good proofreader can make you look at least as smart as you really are. They can make your business look professional and demonstrate your attention to detail, quality and even customer care.

7 kinds of errors a proofreader will fix for you:

  • Word usage. You’re probably across you and your, or there, they’re and their. But what about compliment vs complement? Or tenet vs tenant? How often do you get lie and lay mixed up? Do you know the difference between copyright and copywrite?
  • Spelling. Autocorrect is making an ass of us all. (I won’t give examples, but Google “worst autocorrect examples” to see what I mean.) Spellchecker is a lot more confident about its own skills than it has any right to be.
  • Punctuation.Where you place a comma in a sentence can be the difference between good employee relations and a $5 million comma mistake. While most commas don’t cause that many problems, a comma in the wrong place or the lack of a comma can change the meaning of a sentence.
  • Grammar. Unless you were forced to diagram sentences in school, having a grammar whiz at your disposal closes the gap on the technical parts of writing. I had to diagram sentences for two years in high school, which is why I insist on having all my copy reviewed by a proofreader before I send it out to customers.
  • Clarity. I can’t tell you how many times my proofreader has said, “I don’t think you meant what you wrote.” In nearly every case, the way it sounded in my head was not how it was interpreted once it was on paper.
  • Clutter. If you’re not getting to your point, a proofreader will let you know it. Their job is to read every single word you’ve written and they have a fantastic ability to point out when no-one else would hang in there.
  • Style. There are rules around when to capitalise a word and when not to. They know how your company wants dates displayed. They catch every little misstep with abbreviations and find SMS text in your writing like a heat-seeking missile. That means you don’t have to worry about it — or even care — but your prose will be perfect.

Where to get help with your writing

I can’t recommend Dreyer’s book enough. If you’re a word nerd, go out and buy it. If you simply want to write better, it’s a good investment. Or, if you’re one of those people who spent their youth with a nose stuck in a book, it’s for you, too.

If you’d like to sleep easier knowing everything you publish or send to customers is as close to perfect as humanly possible — and that’s a lot closer to perfect than a machine will ever get it — hire a proofreader. Once you get used to working with someone who checks your writing, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without the service.

Here’s an added bonus for using a proofreader. I shave about 10% of the total time it takes to write a quality piece when I work with a proofreader. Why? Because I don’t have to sweat the small details, look through style manuals, or Google grammar questions. If I can get it most of the way there, my proofreader does the part of the writing job I find the least fun.

Typeset has professional proofreaders and copyeditors in Perth and London ready to help you out. Get in touch to find out what it feels like to never worry about your writing again.

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