Most people serious about their business understand why it’s a good idea to proofread their written business communications. From board papers to thought leadership, marketing materials to website copy, they’re happy to use spell check and maybe even get a staff member ‘good at that kind of thing’ to give it the once over. Sorted, right? Not so. Nothing will make your written words represent your business better than the sharp-eyed talents of a professional proofreader. Here’s how proofreading can help you.
What’s the point of proofreading?
Simply put, proofreading goes far beyond merely spotting typos; it’s a commitment to quality.
Skip the proofreading process and it can be costly to fix. Reprinting important business documents or marketing materials doesn’t come cheap. And while online mistakes can generally be fixed with a click or two of a mouse, they can also be amplified thousands of times over – sometimes millions – by another couple of clicks. Before you know it, your embarrassing error is plastered across social media for all to see, forever available in cyberspace.
However, of greatest importance is the effect that a lack of proofreading can have on your business. There’s heaps of solid research that confirms inattention to spelling, punctuation and grammar is genuinely a real turn off for consumers. They see mistakes in business communications as a ‘near enough is good enough’ attitude and a red flag when considering dealing with your company. One study found that 59% of respondents wouldn’t do business with a business whose marketing material had obvious errors.
Can you afford that kind of loss to your customer base?
Six solid reasons why investing in a professional proofreader makes good business sense
Whether they relate to your own business or the business that you work for, all written communications should be carefully reviewed to pick up errors and inconsistencies. Investing in a professional proofreader is a sound idea. Here are six very good reasons why:
1. A spell checker or grammar bot won’t pick up everything
Whilst both of these tech tools are of great help, there’s a lot they can’t do. Even AI not yet up to scratch. For example, tech tools:
- They won’t flag up when a word is spelled correctly but it’s the wrong word to use. For example, ‘The project suffered from otter issues that ultimately affected the bottom line’ will slip through completely unchallenged.
- They won’t draw attention to inconsistent formatting such as varied line spacing, a mix of heading styles, differing bullet point lists and a whole lot more.
- Deviations from the a supplied style guide won’t be picked up.
- Neither will inconsistent use of acronyms and abbreviations be corrected.
2. The ‘voice’
When a document is the product of multiple contributors it’s important that it speaks with one ‘voice’. A professional proofreader will ensure that terminology is used in the same context and style throughout. They’ll also ensure consistency of tone. For example, if the document is formal, they’ll change contractions such as ‘we’re’, ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’ to ‘we are’, ‘cannot’ and ‘do not’ where appropriate.
3. Poor punctuation and grammar
Investing in the services of a professional proofreader will ensure that your target audience isn’t distracted from your core business messages because of poor punctuation and grammar.
4. Avoid repetition
Using the same word multiple times in one sentence or paragraph can sound clunky and make for laboured reading. An expert proofreader will suggest using alternatives or restructure the sentence for better flow.
5. Save your embarrassment
They’ll correct your word usage, saving you embarrassment. Professional proofreaders understand the difference between affect vs. effect, tack vs. tact, their vs. they’re and a whole lot more besides.
6. Crystal clear clarity of your business messages
You may think what you’ve written is perfectly clear. But will your readers interpret it in the same way? A professional proofreader will flag up instances of ambiguity.
A professional proofreader sees easy-to-miss mistakes every day. Missing letters, extra letters, incorrect punctuation: we catch common misspellings of ordinary words throughout important business documents like tenders that, if left as they are, could make a poor impression on potential customers.
The point is that these kinds of errors are incredibly easy to miss if you’re not used to proofreading. It’s here that the value of a professional proofreader comes in. Their job is to sit quietly and without distraction to read your business communications very carefully, one word at a time, without rushing. They forensically examine every punctuation mark, every line space, every heading and every bullet point list to pick up even the smallest of errors.
Of course, it’s not just one needle-in-a haystack error that a proofreader will pick up. Typically, in a 50-page document a professional proofreader will highlight hundreds of errors – that’s hundreds of opportunities to save your business from reputational damage or embarrassment.
No doubt shareholders would have felt confused to read they were going to receive ‘divideds’ instead of ‘dividends’, had we not picked up that particular clanger when proofreading an annual report for a major bank – the day before the glossy 150-page document was due to go to print.
The use of ‘manger’ instead of ‘manager’ is a repeat offence in many documents we proofread. Similarly, we frequently pick up on ‘abilties’ and ‘capabilties’. Sure, it’s just one letter missing, but it looks bad.
Other perennial favourites we often see include confusing ‘led’ with ‘lead’, mixing up ‘compliment’ with ‘complement’, and confusing ‘bear’ and ‘bare’. It’s a proofreader’s job to know which word is correct in which context.
And then there’s our old friend style inconsistency. Role titles are particularly prone to mix ups in the style consistency stakes. For instance, should it be:
- Non-executive director
- Non-Executive Director
- Non executive director
- Non Executive Director
- Non-executive Director
- Non executive Director
It’s the professional proofreader’s job to make sure the document sticks to the preferred style in every instance that this title appears.
Expensive proofreading mistakes
Following are some famous examples of organisations that didn’t invite professional proofreaders to check their documents. And their decision cost them lots of money. Millions of dollars, in some cases.
Red faces at the Reserve Bank
Who can forget the Reserve Bank’s embarrassment when, in 2019, an eagle-eyed citizen spotted a typo in the word ‘responsibility’ on Australia’s just released new $50 note? This spectacularly embarrassing blunder attracted headlines around the world and made a severe dent in the Bank’s pride. An impossible error to fix because the currency was already released, there are now some 46 million $50 notes – that’s $2.3 billion worth of cash – sporting the ‘responsibilty’ error in circulation.
Car dealership loses US$50 million (or $250,000 in Walmart gift cards)
In 2007, in Roswell, New Mexico, a local car dealership mailed out 50,000 scratch cards, one of which was supposed to give the lucky recipient a $1,000 prize. The problem was that all the scratch cards offered a $1,000 prize. Because the dealership couldn’t honour the debt, they offered a $5 Walmart gift card for every winning ticket.
He pulled a fast one
Juan Pablo Davila, a copper trader, worked for Codelco in Chile in 1994. Due to a single typo in his instructions, he bought equities that were losing value rather than selling them. To make amends, Davila went on a purchasing and selling spree. But it was too late. By then, he’d cost Codelco and his country $175 million by the end of the day. In Chile, they’ve honoured this spectacular achievement by making his name a verb. To ‘do a Davila’ is to make a massive blunder.
Selling shares too low
Mizuho Securities of Japan added a recruitment firm to its portfolio in December 2005. The stock of the corporation was valued at 610,000 yen per share. One of the firm’s dealers sold 610,000 shares at one yen each less than a year later. Despite the company’s best efforts, the Tokyo Stock Exchange refused to correct the mistake. The total cost of the damage? US$340 million.
Erotic or just plain exotic?
Way back in 1988, when the world relied on big fat phone directories, Banner Travel Agency’s Yellow Pages listing advertised ‘International and Erotic Travel’ emblazoned in red across her prominent advertisement. The appalled business owner Gloria Quinan said, “We offer exotic travel, like tours up the Amazon, but nothing erotic.”
The effect of this error was catastrophic. Travel sales dropped off by a staggering 80 per cent almost immediately. Not only had Gloria’s exemplary 20-year reputation vanished virtually overnight, she became subject to ‘a lot of crank calls, heavy breathers and unsavoury requests.’
Pacific Bell, the company behind Yellow Pages, claimed that ‘Obviously we’re going to have errors from time to time’, but declined to issue correct ‘exotic travel’ stickers for the thousands of directories already in circulation. Gloria launched a gross negligence lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages – a simply enormous sum in those days.
Did she win? Yes. And Pacific Bell almost went out of business as a result. Did Gloria’s travel business ever recover? We don’t know. Perhaps she took the money and put the whole nightmare behind her by taking an extended trip. It’s all rather lost in the mists of time. But the key point here is that, more than 30 years later, the embarrassment and brand damage sustained by Banner Travel are still being talked about.
Don’t let your business be talked about for all the wrong reasons. Invest in a professional proofreader and breathe easy.
Ready for proofreading?
Ready to ensure your document’s clarity and precision? For support from our professional proofreaders, contact Proof Communications here or ring us on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377.