For most of us proofreading conjures up a similar image – a studious person marking spelling errors on paper with a red pen and squiggly symbols. Some might think it is old-fashioned, out-dated and only relevant to newspapers and book publishing.
However, that is not the case. Proofreading is more relevant than ever and an increasingly valuable process in today’s media rich environment. Let me explain…
- The digital age means audiences are much larger and global as opposed to local, while education has ensured a more discerning audience who delight in pointing out errors.
- A plethora of communications channels far outreach the original printed matter of newspapers and books and multichannel publishing mean errors cost more to correct.
- The sheer amount of information published means proofreading is not just relevant to marketing materials such as direct mail, advertising and newsletters/magazines, but is important for other information that may be read en masse. For example, annual reviews, prospectuses, catalogues, product manuals/user guides, assembly instructions and business reports, to name but a few, can all benefit from proofreading.
The power of social media means your audience has a readily accessible, instantaneous and far-reaching platform on which to point out misdemeanours. Within seconds, negative feedback can reach not just you but your entire audience including past, current and potential customers, staff and stakeholders.
Whatever your business, you need to communicate with your audience, most of which will involve the written word. You invest time, energy and creativity to ensure your message reaches your audience, but are your words saying the right thing about you?
Mistakes in your writing, however small will convey carelessness, which can undermine your brand’s integrity and the reputation you have worked hard to build.
Proofreading is a specialist skill; but it is not about intelligence. A proofreader is not smarter than you; however, we have been trained to read differently. We have certain personality traits too, namely being rather pedantic, precise and pernickety!
In addition to the obligatory knowledge and understanding of the English language, spelling and grammar, we also have patience, a methodical approach, a meticulous eye for detail and an absolute passion for spotting and correcting errors.
“Why pay a proofreader when I can simply use my spellchecker?” I hear you ask.
I agree spellcheckers are a valuable tool. However, a human proofreader is more intuitive and can identify common errors a spellchecker will miss. For example, mistakes created by typing errors that transpose letters, the classic being from/form. Words used incorrectly such as to, too, two or there, their, they’re will also be overlooked.
Consider the following statement:
The mind reads what it expects to see.
The mined reeds watt it excepts two sea.
The second version is obviously composed with incorrectly used words, but a spellchecker would not actually flag any of them. Okay, this is an extreme example but it illustrates my point.
Inconsistency throughout your writing is another common error that readers will notice but a spellchecker will not. For example, two accepted spellings i.e. focused/focussed; capitalisation i.e. the Queen/the queen; and abbreviations i.e. BBC/B.B.C.
So, when you consider proofreading, think of a trained professional armed with a laptop and specialist skills, providing a valuable service to public sector organisations, private companies, SMEs and sole traders, whatever your business or industry and without a red squiggle in sight.
Please do use your spellchecker but remember it is no match for the practiced eye of a proofreader; who will not only ensure your writing is correct, clear and consistent, but uphold your reputation and give you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on what you do best – your business.
That, quite simply, is why proofreaders are worth their weight in gold!