Articles Tagged with proofreader

Does anyone know what you do?

People used to be known by their job titles. I started as a Reservations Agent, becoming a Senior Reservations Agent after six months.

Then I became a Sales Information Officer. Was I in the army? No, along with a colleague, I constructed and wrote 7,000 screens of marketing and sales copy for a British Airways brochure site on Prestel (remember it?); today we’d call it a web site.

Next I was a Quality Monitoring Analyst, which I quickly changed to Communications Executive. In this role I presented data in swanky new graphics packages and wrote business reports presented to the BA board.

Responding to an advert in the Guardian media section, I joined an international law firm as an Editorial Assistant. Who did I assist? Me. I arrived to an empty desk, went out and bought some Apple Macs and established a publishing operation producing law magazines, booklets and books for the firm’s global clientele.

What am I now? Well, I combine all that experience and more, but I can’t call myself a Sales Information Communications Copywriter Editor Proofreader Project Managing Officer Executive Partner.

Few job titles describe what a person does accurately. This isn’t helpful when people ask what you do and want a one word answer.

I often describe myself as a copywriter, although this is only one element of what I get up to, as words involve me with editing, proofreading, public relations, marketing, print, the internet and more. Saying you do a bit of this, some of that and more besides just confuses people.

Of course, each one of us is more than a job title and what’s best is not to be known as that copywriter chap but as the one and only robertz, just as you are the one and only you.

After yesterday’s blog, have you planned your PR programme for the months or year ahead?

z2zine tomorrow: Cut, cut and cut again

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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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How to work with a proofreader

The client, a business, called to ask how much it would cost to proofread their client magazine. We asked for a word count and a possible sample of the text. Seeing a sample gives us an idea of how much work is involved. Poorly written material can take two or three times longer to proofread than good writing, as much of the time is spent figuring out what the author really means and how it should be amended or whether it needs more advanced editing.

Having agreed the price, dates are set for when the draft magazine will be available and when the annotated text needs to be returned to the client.

The text arrives as a PDF on the agreed date and we proofread it, checking spelling, grammar and punctuation, seeing that it makes sense, marking up inconsistencies and generally making sure it is all fine. We mark up the PDF with electronic notes in Adobe Acrobat.

When completed, we email back the PDF so that the client can read the annotations on the PDF using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The client is very pleased. It’s all gone smoothly and the magazine will go to print free from error.

That’s how proofreading works – more details at

Managing long documents effectively

When commissioned to proofread magazines, newsletters, reports, manuals and web sites before they are sent to print or published on the internet, often we find major inconsistencies throughout the document, which require considerable rewriting or editing. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to do this and the document is produced with only the worst errors and typos corrected.

Anyone producing a long document can avoid this by assuming the role of editor and managing production from start to finish. By using style guides for both the visual and written content, you can ensure consistency through contributions from many writers, illustrators and designers. 

And because you’re monitoring progress all the time, you won’t be faced by the need to make impossible changes just before going to print or publication. 

It’ll save you time, money and hassle, and also result in a better publication.

Download our free prompt sheet on managing long documents effectively or if you want someone to edit your long document for you, call us on 0845 200 7830 or email us.

Why are so many communications difficult to read or understand?

With millions of printed and online communications distributed every day, many readers are forced to assess the value of one piece of written material against hundreds of others, often making the read, bin, delete or ignore decision within a few seconds.

Good design can attract initial attention, but isn’t enough to keep readers from losing interest in longer documents if the writing is monotonous, ambiguous or erratic.

In the course of my proofreading work, I often read documents about to be printed or published which don’t make sense, lurch from one writing style to another or are simply boring. Sometimes there’s enough time for remedial editing, but often there’s only enough time to correct the worst mistakes.

Do interest, clarity and consistency matter?
If the purpose of a specific communication is to inform readers or persuade them to take a defined action, it will achieve neither if no one reads it. If we are serious about achieving our purpose and want maximum value from the time and money we invest in communicating, then interest, clarity and consistency do matter.

What can ensure communications are effective?
As usual, it’s good planning and effective management that prevent many problems. Here’s a few suggestions that won’t necessarily cost you more, but could make your communications more effective.

Develop a written house style
If you write a lot or produce long documents, a style guide will help to establish a consistent corporate writing style. Use it to establish your preferred way of writing certain words or phrases, names or jargon, formats for dates, numerical data, use of capitals and punctuation preferences (eg whether to hyphenate: co-operate or cooperate?).

A style guide is not about being pedantic, but about ensuring consistency. Inconsistency can put off some readers and damage your image if valuable brand or product names are written incorrectly (eg MasterCard requires an upper case C, while adidas is written entirely in lower case).

A style guide can be as basic or as detailed as you wish, varying from a single sheet of A4 to an entire book. Distribute it to everyone who writes material in your organisation and ensure that authors refer to it, especially when many writers collaborate on one document.

Take a look at the BBC News or The Times newspaper style guides for an idea of how a style guide can help.

Appoint an editor to manage a project
If you’re producing a magazine, book or long report, a capable editor will manage the separate parts to ensure that they come together as a unified document. Select someone with a good command of English who has project management experience. If you have difficulty finding someone internally and are spending thousands of pounds on a project, bringing in professional expertise could save you money.

The editor should pick up and amend inconsistencies during production and ensure all material is checked for accuracy and proofread. This should prevent the last-minute panics that can occur just before printing or publication, and also eliminate costly reprints required by undetected errors.

Read your writing out loud
Whatever you write, long or short, read it out loud as a test. If any passages sound unnatural, awkward or tedious to you, just think how they will appear to your readers. Effective writing can replicate the natural rhythm of conversational language to convey a message to readers effortlessly.

If you still aren’t sure, read it to a trusted colleague and ask their opinion, like I have done with this article. It’s better to receive practical criticism that you can act on from someone you know rather than negative criticism from customers or industry peers, and it gives you the opportunity to improve material before you publish it.

Achieving return on investment in communications
As new forms of communication such as microblogging (eg Twitter) and mobile blogging develop, demands on readers’ attention from every direction will increase further. Faced with such competition, the three actions above could contribute to changing a document’s status from ‘bin it’ to ‘essential reading’. If people read and understand a communication and take action as a result of it, it will have achieved a good return on the investment made in producing it.

It will also make this proofreader happier to read more interesting, consistent and well-written material.

See this article written by Robert Zarywacz at the ecademy 100K club for entrepreneurs.

Avoid the credit crunch!

There’s quite a bit of doom and gloom in the press and media about the credit crunch, house price falls, consumer confidence and all manner of economic disaster.

As a business, what do you do? Bury your head in the sand and hope it doesn’t happen? Or panic?

Well, there is another way. Make sure your business is fit to compete in a toughening marketplace.

One of the ways to do this is to increase your marketing efforts when others are cutting them. How? Assess all your marketing material: brochures, web sites, sales letters and all customer communications to make sure that every one is up-to-date and promotes your current products and services.

Will it increase your costs at a time when you want to reduce them? A freelance copywriter, proofreader or other specialist should be able to help you revitalise your material at a reasonable cost. And if they help you to increase sales, it won’t be a cost at all.

On the other hand, there are many things you can do yourself and we offer a range of useful free prompts and checklists to guide you through these.

So don’t panic – strengthen your marketing armoury and win more business.

Robert Zarywacz

What is law in English?

The other day I read a letter in a local newspaper criticising another correspondent’s use of English, which referred to Fowler’s Modern English Usage almost as a bible for the language. I believe that this book was first published in 1906, with updated versions issued at various intervals.

The problem with assigning ultimate authority over the language to a single person or body is the assumption that our language does not change when, as an integral element of our life and culture, it evolves alongside us. Language never stands still.

As a copywriter, editor and proofreader, I do not always approve or agree with many aspects of changing usage, but my aim is to achieve use of language that is clear, elegant and appropriate. I do not want my writing to appear Dickensian in the 21st century; I enjoy reading Dickens and other classical authors of our own and earlier civilisations, but that doesn’t mean that I should speak or write like them.

Language is changing for better and worse, and we have to accept this. If we do not like some changes, we can try to remedy or influence them ourselves in our own writing with the aim of persuading others to emulate what we consider to be our own good practice (whether we are right or wrong).

We are fortunate to be blessed with a language that enables us to articulate our thoughts with clarity, beauty and variety. This is more important than any reference book on the language, however useful, and I believe we should always write with these aims in mind.

Robert Zarywacz

Thoughts on becoming a proofreader

Often we receive questions about how to start a career as a proofreader.

Now, we started proofreading almost by accident. When setting up our business, I was asked to proofread for Safeway Stores. 10 years later we were still proofreading for Safeway at the time it was bought out by Morrisons.

Since 1994 we have proofread for many organisations, mainly businesses. Our experience is wholly commercial, so we cannot speak for the book publishing industry.

Below are our requirements for success in commercial proofreading:

1. You need to be precise, accurate and methodical, and able to spot mistakes and inconsistencies.

2. You need an understanding of grammar and punctuation, as well as the ability to spell.

3. For commercial proofreading, you need common sense and judgement. If a client asks you to proofread text written specifically for a specialist market, such as teenagers, the writing may not be consistent with what some people call standard English. The text must be proofread with this in mind and the appropriate ‘rules’ of language applied, which are not necessarily the ones you would choose to adhere to for your own writing. So commercial awareness and judgement is required.

4. You need to be familiar with computer document formats, including word processing and PDF files, which can be amended or annotated on screen. Most commercial proofreading is undertaken electronically and annotations to paper copies are rarely used.

5. Language is always changing and you must keep up with this, whether or not you agree with the changes. As a proofreader, you can help to influence the evolution of English by ensuring it retains its intelligence, usefulness and beauty.

A proofreader can feel satisfied when a proofread text that is published reads well, is easy to understand and pleases the reader.

Robert Zarywacz

It’s wrong! I should have checked it.

A company spends thousands of pounds on producing a magazine: writers research topics and interview subjects; photographers take breathtaking photographs; illustrators create stunning pictures; and designers produce wonderful page-layouts.

A day before going to print, someone asks if anyone has proofread it. No. We’d better find a proofreader – quick!

Often, there is so much focus on making publications look good that the content itself is forgotten. It’s only when someone realises that errors cannot be corrected when a document has been printed that proofreading becomes important.

Is this unusual? Unfortunately, no.

Is proofreading expensive? Not when you think of the thousands of pounds spent on writing, designing and printing a magazine, newsletter or brochure – the cost is likely to be a hundred or two at the most.

Does proofreading take long? A magazine or newsletter of up to 20 pages can be proofread and checked in one day. Obviously, it’s better to build proofreading into the production schedule, just like any other activity.

What are all the proofreading symbols? These are rarely used, as most commercial proofreading is undertaken using the ‘track changes’ facility in Microsoft Word or the comments facilities in Adobe Acrobat. Files can be sent to a proofreader and returned by email. Modern proofreaders are as hi-tech as any other industry.

Isn’t it an unnecessary cost? How would you feel if, instead of being praised for your marvellous magazine, you only receive comments on all the mistakes?

Proofreading is as necessary today as it has ever been so that your magazines and newsletters not only look good, but read well too.

Robert Zarywacz

Why is proofreading and checking important?

Recently, I received a newly printed brochure from a local company.

It looked very good, but unfortunately a glaring error stared out of the text. The spelling was correct, but it was the wrong word.

Watch out for this when checking text using a spell-checker on your PC. It will not alert you to the fact that the wrong word has been used, because it is not clever enough.

Ultimately, ask someone independent of the production process – ie not the writer, designer or you – to proofread text before publishing or going to print. It’s well worth it.

Here are some similar sounding words, which have different meanings – take care when using them:

• their (belonging to them) and there (at that place)

• bear (to carry) and (bare) plain, unclothed

• compliment (to praise) and complement (to make complete)

• discreet (unobtrusive) and discrete (separate)

• dependant (one whoe depends on another) and dependent (depending on)

• principal (first in rank) and principle (fundamental truth)

• programme (plan of proceedings) and program (computer software)

Use the right word, as the wrong one can change the meaning of your text.

A proofreader can spot errors such as these.


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