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?

Make it easy

With businesses pumping out so much information in press releases, newsletters, blogs and tweets, how much of it is clear?

Clarity is important when readers have so much to read. If they can’t understand something, it needs to be very important for them to take the time to re-read it or contact you for clarification. Most likely they won’t bother and will move on to the next item, possibly from a competitor. If that is easy to read and understand, you’ll have lost out.

When you’re close to your business, you understand the complexities: how everything fits together. It won’t be so clear to someone who doesn’t know your business. Often, people give up if they find something confusing.

Sometimes it isn’t necessary for customers to know about complex issues which are important to the internal processes of your business. If that’s the case, don’t mention them or you’ll add unnecessary complexity.

Where you do have to mention complexity, such as different brands or subsidiaries dealing with different products or services, make sure that these are explained clearly. If not, customers won’t know who to contact about what and they could feel it is easier to go to a competitor.

Why am I writing this? Because I am trying to write about a company which appears to have a similar sister company offering a similar product and I have had to ask them to clarify the set-up. Not everyone would bother to ask.

Up-to-date details

Everything seems to change faster these days, although in reality fashion has always been fickle. Nevertheless, when you publish business information with technical details, prices, dates or statistics, these seem to need updating almost as soon as you look away.

At least with web sites you can often alter details fast. Details to review regularly could include:

  • range of products – have some been withdrawn or are new ones available? Have specifications changed?
  • prices – have these gone up or down and what about the rate of VAT applicable?
  • dates – do adverts for events now passed need deleting or archiving?
  • special offers – are these still applicable or should details be removed?
  • copyright notices, terms and conditions – are these up to date?
  • employee names and titles – are these current? Has anyone left or joined who needs to be deleted/added?

While it is usually easy to amend web sites, printed material can cause more of a problem. If you produce a large annual brochure, it could be expensive to reprint and distribute an amended version just two months after launching the original. Such publications need careful planning to consider the options of a separate, smaller price list that can be reprinted at minimal cost without reproducing the whole brochure.

What is most important is to have up-to-date information available at all times and to show that you review and amend your material regularly. Changes to information also present opportunities to communicate with potential and existing customers to tell them about new products, events or special offers. By letting people know you have updated your web site you can attract more visitors to it and generate more sales.

After our last blog, are you focusing on what you can actually do now to develop your communications?

z2zine tomorrow: Choosing communications providers

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