5 simple proofreading tips to save your business embarrassment

Posted by Wendy Wood on 10th July , 2019 in Copywriting, Editing & Proofreading
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As a professional proofreader and copyeditor, I have to admit I love working from home.

While I sometimes miss the camaraderie and chatter of a busy office, it’s such a cruel world out there for a copyeditor.

Everywhere I go, grammatical errors abound. And the problem is I can’t not see these mistakes! To my practiced eye, trained to zero in on these inaccuracies, they’re glaring.

What businesses don’t realise is that many customers will also notice these errors.

Don’t let your company become a laughing-stock. I’ve come up with five tips to help you improve anything your business writes (using real-life examples I’ve spotted on my excursions around town).

If you need to hire a professional proofreader or copyeditor, get in touch.

 

1. Use your spellchecker

This should be obvious but, unfortunately, it’s not.

There is a grocery store just three blocks from the apartment where we used to live. The store was convenient and inexpensive, and I knew where everything was. But their signs never failed to elicit a giggle.

In the beginning I chose to ignore the mistakes, but I couldn’t help snapping a picture of this. A simple run through spellchecker would have caught the misspelling of Estate.

Sign says Beringer Eatate instead of Beringer Estate.

And here’s a sign at a liquor store my husband and I visited. (Going for a friend.) A quick spellcheck by this sign’s maker would have flagged the actual lack of a maximum fee.

Sign says Maximun instead of maximum

A trip with my husband to get a burger also had me chuckling. There were two signage errors, approximately 30 feet apart.

Sign has two errant apostrophies

These are a bit trickier because spellchecker won’t always catch this type of error. But there’s a simple rule: plurals are never formed by adding an apostrophe!

Careful reading would have weeded these out. Which leads me to my next tip.

READ MORE: Are you using these 5 free tools to be a better writer?

 

2. Have someone read what you’ve written

This next sign is also from the grocery near our former apartment. If the sign’s creator had just had someone look at this before going to the trouble of having it made and installed, this could have been avoided.

Sign says "Sorry... we can not be responsible for damaged caused by carts left in the parking lot"

The first thing I notice is the words “Sorry… we can not be responsible” are larger than the remainder of the sentence. My initial thought was “what do you mean you’re not responsible? I need a reliable grocer who can provide the items I need.”

And then I notice the rest of the sentence. (Or is it a sentence, since there’s no full stop.) “For damaged caused by carts”? For damaged what?

A mistake like this can make a customer think your business is careless in everything you do.

 

3. Re-read what you’ve written

Invitation has the wrong date on it.

This invitation to a breakfast has several errors that spellchecker and a careful reading would have noticed. In fact, Microsoft Word even underlines “marshmellow” so you’ll be sure to see it.

Spellchecker won’t help out on “poach egg” because they’re both actually words. But if you re-read what you’ve written, or have someone else read it, chances are it would get your attention. You’ll often discover your errors the second time around.

The worst mistake is actually the hardest to notice. This breakfast took place on Wednesday, June 26, yet the menu is dated Wednesday, July 26. Which brings me to my next tip.

 

4. Hire a copyeditor

If a copyeditor had looked at this menu, they would have checked to make sure 26 July was, in fact, a Wednesday. When they discovered 26 July will occur on a Friday, they would have immediately questioned when this breakfast would actually take place.

Even the best writers need a trained eye to notice discrepancies and challenge things. I once edited an article in which the writer had recommended a book. I recognised the book’s title but not the author’s name used by the article’s writer. I googled the title and discovered the writer had dropped the last letter from the author’s name. I saved her the embarrassment of having to issue a correction and apologise to the author.

READ MORE: 7 reasons you need a proofreader

A copyeditor has been trained to keep your tone of voice but will polish what you’ve written. They will rewrite your sentences to remove dangling or misplaced modifiers and make sure your subjects and verbs are in agreement.

They’ll also investigate any compound words to determine if they should be written closed, open, or hyphenated.

A copyeditor will check a style guide to see how certain words and phrases should be handled.

 

5. Hire a copywriter

If your budget permits, hire a copywriter. They’ve spent years honing their writing skills.

While I agonise over every single word I enter on my keyboard, our copywriters can pound out a blog post in a couple of hours. (I’m quite envious, actually, and hope to be just like them when I grow up.)

A good copywriter can take a complicated subject and put it into language everyone can comprehend.

READ MORE: 10 easy ways to become a better writer

For example, one of our copywriters is currently writing web copy for a mining company. While some of the procedures this company performs are extremely complicated, I keep telling her, “You’ve written this so I actually understand what they’re doing!”

A copywriter can write your advertisements, blog posts, website copy, annual reports, press releases, newsletters — basically anything you need to publish. They’ll make you look like a rockstar.

No matter what you need written, no matter whom your audience is, and no matter what industry you’re in, Typeset can help. We have offices in Australia, the UK and the US and offer proofreading, copyediting and copywriting services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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