Articles Tagged with Proofreading

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.

Spelling bureaucrat

Don’t get tied up by the red tape of this B when tangling with a bureaucrat.

Bureaucrat – the noun can mean:

  • official usually employed by a government or public body (especially one determined to stick as closely as possible to set procedures)

Bureaucracy – the noun can mean:

  • over-complicated administrative procedures
  • government dominated by state officials

Return frequently for our A to Z of spelling tips plus copywriting and proofreading hints.

Spelling accommodate

It’s helpful to remember that both verb and noun forms accommodate two cs and two ms.

Accommodate – the verb can mean:

  • to provide housing or space
  • to oblige
  • to adapt to

Accommodation – the noun can mean:

  • rooms, lodging or building where someone can live or stay
  • adaption
  • convenient arrangement

Return frequently for our A to Z of spelling tips plus copywriting and proofreading hints.

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

Their, there, they’re!

Their or there or they’re?

They sound and look similar, but their meanings are different, so how do you know which one to use?

Their (adjective) means belonging to them.

There (adverb) means in or at a place.

They’re (verb) is a shortened version of “they are”.

So you could say, “They’re putting their things over there.”

For spelling, grammar and punctuation tips and advice on copywriting, editing and proofreading, please visit our www.z2zine.co.uk blog regularly.

Singular or plural organisation?

When writing a press release, article or other material, it’s a good idea to decide how you want to refer to your business or organisation.

Do you say “the company is a leader in its field” or “the company are leaders in their field”?

The first one is preferable and grammatically correct, because a company is a single entity and can only be a leader, not many leaders. It requires the singular form of the verb (is) rather than the plural form (are) used in the second version.

So when referring to the company, write about “it” operating throughout the UK.

If a number of people work for the company, you may want to write about them collectively, eg “we work together.” In this case, the plural form is correct, because you are talking about the people in the company, not the organisation itself.

If you stick to these guidelines, you should be able to write consistenly about your organisation and your colleagues.

For more business copywriting and proofreading tips, please visit www.z2zine.co.uk regularly.

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.

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