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 www.proofreadingresources.co.uk

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