What happens when you don’t proofread?

Publishing and marketing move at such a speed that often there’s no time for proofreading.

Even if you don’t worry about commas in the right place or correct use of apostrophes, proofreading ensures that basic information is correct.

This is what happened in several cases where text was not proofread properly:

  1. Editorial staff accidentally mistyped a contact phone number for an event listing so that a private individual was annoyed by nuisance phone calls and the event organiser lost customers.
  2. Marketing staff at a theatre provided incorrect performance dates for a newspaper events guide so readers could have missed out on seeing a production.
  3. A PR agency included the logo of its client in a press release but never referred to it in the text, instead mentioning the parent company. The confusion required research into the relationship between the company and its parent to make sense of the press release.

Getting basic information right is essential. Proofreading often highlights simple but important errors. It also highlights confusion or unclear meaning where the reader has no idea what the writer is trying to say.

How much do errors and confusion cost businesses in lost customers or sales? Is it worth building time for proofreading into production schedules?

Checking your content

Few people like checking documents. If something’s been a battle to get finished, you probably just want to see it out the door.

The problem is that things change fast and what was correct a week ago has now changed. It’s not good if you print thousands of brochures telling your customers to go to a web page that doesn’t exist or call the wrong phone number.

Today I’m proofreading a long document which includes lots of web addresses: I’ve found that some of them have changed, especially government ones, which are always changing.

Dates and prices are other details which need to be checked. Getting the right date but the wrong day (or vice versa) is common: always check a calendar. You’ll be glad you did when you get lots of people at your event or wish you had if you didn’t check it.

And, finally, proofreading ensures that your documents make sense. With so much text flying about, I give up if I can’t understand something because of the way it is written; many other people do too.

Even if you can’t wait to see the back of a document, make sure someone checks it before it goes to print or on the web. Apart from achieving your objectives more successfully, you’ll find yourself building a reputation for being a reliable source of information if everything you put out is accurate and up to date.

After yesterday’s blog, are you cutting your text down?

z2zine tomorrow: Too much to handle

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What difference does a single letter make?

I’m surprised that people continue to argue about the need for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you’re in any doubt, try working as a proofreader.

We regularly proofread material produced by companies, councils, universities, schools and other organisations, and frequently grind to a halt because we can’t understand something.

In novels or poems, writers sometimes aim to entertain through using language that is a challenge to understand. This is not the case for companies or organisations dealing with customers who need information fast and in an easy-to-understand format.

So when you read a brochure or letter where you have to stop, go back and re-read a sentence three times to figure out what the writer is trying to say, you know that something needs changing. Perhaps there’s a word missing, a plural noun with a singular verb or three sentences crammed together in one.

Rather than being there to annoy us, spelling, grammar and punctuation aim to make text easier to read and understand. They can also make reading and writing more enjoyable and more effective, especially for companies producing marketing material to sell their products and services.

Accuracy is also very important. Would it matter to you if you published an advert with one wrong digit in the postcode? Would it make any difference if a newspaper published the wrong date for an event you were holding? (This happened to me recently – it was the newspaper’s mistake.)

If we use the language tools available to us to make our material as easy to understand as possible and we check all details to make sure our material facts are correct, we do all we can to help our communications achieve the best results for business.

After our last blog, have you decided how well print and digital communications work for you?

z2zine tomorrow: What is there say about my business?

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