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?

Use a style guide for consistency when writing for print or web sites

We’ve been doing a lot of proofreading lately, which brings to mind just how useful a corporate style guide for writers can be.

It’s quite common for businesses and other organisations to have visual style guides, but the actual content is often forgotten until a proofreader points out all the inconsistencies.

A style guide can be as simple or as complex as you want: covering basics from always writing brand names in capitals – or not – to whether specific words are hyphenated.

Once simple rules are written down, it’s much easier to remember them when you come to write a word and think “company policy is to hyphenate this word” or “we write that with a capital”.

The result is greater consistency, more effective communication and less time spent ironing out inconsistencies every time you want to publish a brochure or web site content.

The value of accuracy

We all do it: jot things down, bang out an email or a blog. Does it matter if we get a number or something else wrong? Apart from being sloppy, usually not. So is that all right? 

I don’t think it’s an excuse. What’s the point of a number if it’s wrong? How many feet have I got? Two or three? The whole point of numbers is that they are precise to a .000000000001 (or however many more zeros you care to insert).

I’m writing this after proofreading large documents for several large companies and identifying lots of typos and inconsistencies. Is that bad? No, that’s the whole point of proofreading. Often, the people producing a document will be too close to the words and will have edited them too many times to be able to spot mistakes. Designers are also under pressure to lay out documents without time to check them. By building proofreading into the production process, any errors or omissions can be spotted and corrected before publication.

So does it matter? Yes, if the price is shown as £50 instead of £500 or readers – your customers – can’t understand what you’re trying to say in your document.

Finally, it helps ensure some elegance in the writing. Awkward, artificially abrupt language can work well when used for effect, but if you want someone to understand something quickly and easily, simple and elegant language is recommended.

So the value of proofreading is in ensuring that your readers get accurate information and can understand what you’re trying to say.

email: hello@z2z.com
Telephone: 0333 0444 354