Why is proofreading so important in business communications?

When it comes to your important content – articles, website, reports – it’s irrelevant if your business is a small concern or a large corporation. This is one instance when size doesn’t matter. However, what matters very much indeed is that anyone who reads anything connected with your business – advertising, marketing materials, website copy, annual reports, financial statements, blogs and more – remains undistracted by typos, poor grammar and ambiguity of messaging. This is why proofreading is so important in business communication.

What harm can a typo do?

We get it. It can be tempting to forego professional proofreading in the rush to get that important report to shareholders. Someone on your staff can give it the once over and they’re pretty good at that kind of thing, so you’ve heard. Shouldn’t that be enough? Frankly, no, it isn’t. And we’re talking from experience.

It was Jan Carlzon, author of best-seller Moment of Truth who said, ‘Any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of your business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression.’ In a typical 50-page report a professional proofreader will potentially pick up scores of errors that, left unattended, will go a long way towards forming a very unfavourable impression of the business you’ve devoted so much or your time and energy in building up.

It was also Carlzon who first used the example of an air traveller seeing the coffee stains on their tray table. How does that affect their opinion of the rest of the plane? What if the landing gear is as poorly maintained as the tray tables? A sobering thought!

In fact, not so long ago, UK firm Global Lingo conducted research that found that an astonishing 59% of respondents said they wouldn’t do business with a company whose marketing material held obvious errors. Some 74% said they pay particularly close attention to website copy, with one respondent saying, ‘If I see a typo, I’ll leave without buying.’

In short, professional proofreading can help avoid potential embarrassment or damage to your organisation’s reputation and brand.

What does a professional proofreader look for?

Of course, the most obvious thing a professional proofreader will look out for is straight out typos. But there’s so much more to proofreading than that. In fact, of all the markups a professional proofreader will make in a document, typos frequently make up a surprisingly small number.

As proofreaders, we’ll check every word, punctuation mark and sentence for accuracy and legibility. We mark up missing words, formatting inconsistencies, differences in headings and titles, grammatical errors, and we’ll query content that just doesn’t seem to make sense or is repetitive.

Then there’s the more subtle aspects of proofreading that only a proofreader will consider. Does the table of contents match the content? Are bullet points consistent in style and spacing? Do captions match images? Are images clear? We’ll flag up if a term is used one way in one section but differently in another. We’re also adept at using Google to check correct spelling of foreign organisations or verify titles of publications. The list of what we check for is endless.

It’s not going overboard to say that a proofreader’s commitment to quality that will make a difference to your business and brand. No error or inconsistency is ever considered too small for a professional proofreader to flag up.

I’m a pretty good writer. Do I need to hire a professional proofreader?

Ideally, yes. It’s very difficult to proofread your own work. Even professional proofreaders will ask other proofreaders to check anything they’ve written because the fact is we simply can’t see or own typos. When it comes to the written word, if we wrote it, we know what’s coming up. Our brains read ahead and we all too easily skip over spelling mistakes, extra spaces and doubled up words.

Another very good reason to hire a professional proofreader is because proofreading is plain hard work. It involves often long hours of sitting still in absolute quiet, reading every single word of a document or report, requiring total, sustained concentration and a very good memory. Many of the documents we proofread are very dry and remaining engaged can be a challenge. Such focused application of effort is hard on the eyes and the brain. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of work.

However, if hiring a professional proofreader just isn’t possible and you need to do the proofreading yourself, make sure to follow these handy guidelines on how to proofread your own work.

One voice from many

Frequently, important business communications feature input from many contributors who have varying degrees of writing ability. It’s the professional proofreader’s role to make sure that the finalised document speaks with one tone and ‘voice’, ensuring that messaging is consistent and the quality of writing remains unchanged throughout.

This can be a time consuming and tricky exercise, often requiring some light editing to bring wording into line. As professional proofreaders, we have the skills to make sure your important business documents keep readers engaged by sounding as though they’ve been written by the one contributor.

Not only that, when a document has many contributors, common terms are frequently referred to in different ways. For example, one contributor may use ‘long term’ whereas another might style it as ‘long-term’. One may refer to ‘Managers’ when another styles it as ‘managers’.

These disparities may seem minor but if left as they are, they make a huge difference to the finished document’s professionalism. And when that document is a tender submission or a report for the Board, for example, then professionalism is paramount.

Isn’t spell check just as good as a professional proofreader?

No. However, spell check can be of great help to the professional proofreader – up to a point.

The clue is in the name: spell check. A pretty nifty piece of software, spell check catches most words that are spelled wrongly. However, if you write the wrong word altogether, spell check won’t flag it up if that word is spelled correctly. For example, spell check will not pick up the error in ‘Fine wine manures with age’.

By the way, neither will spell check pick up errors in formatting, verb tenses, punctuation, incorrect use of compound words, or missing letters – to name but a few of the many more ways it will let you down if you rely on it as a substitute for a thorough proofread.

So, spell check is great, but it’s nowhere near a worthy replacement for the laser-sharp eyes of a professional proofreader.

In this digital age, mistakes are easy to fix. Or are they?

It’s true that a click of a mouse can fix a typo in a digital document – assuming you pick it up in the first place.

In fact, in this digital age, no matter how fast you pick up a mistake it may already be too late to avoid damaging your brand and reputation. There is a whole army of keyboard warriors out there ready to take you to immediate task!

And whilst digital mistakes can be relatively inexpensive to fix, printed errors – for example in annual reports, merchandising, marketing materials and more – can be hugely expensive to rectify.

Consider the example of well known brand Cotton On. A slew of mocking memes were quick to flood the internet after Cotton On advertising featured a model sporting AFL-themed fleece trackpants sporting a ‘Port Adealide’ logo. No wonder they had to sell them at a discount.

More recently, the University of South Australia was on the receiving end of the wrong kind of worldwide attention when vertical branding stretching over several floors appeared on its main campus building. Designed to promote the quality of its studies in design, the branding proudly proclaimed, ‘Auccess will be of your own design’. Awkward.

Despite the University having a laugh at its own expense in their response on their Instagram account – ‘Ahit happens’ – the damage was done. What’s more, their embarrassing business blunder will remain on the internet forever. And yours could too.

Proofreading = professionalism

Proofreading is an integral part of the quality writing that should represent your business.

Not taking the time to task a proofreader with a thorough review of your business communications can leave the same poor impression as dirty tray tables in an aircraft.

You owe it to your business – and your audience – to ensure that every written message relating to your business is presented correctly and accurately. That way, you’ll leave the right kind of impression every time.

Get a professional proofreader to help

Reach out to Proof Communications today. Our professional proofreaders make every word count. You can contact us on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377 or Contact Us.

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