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Proofreading – why is it so important?

As long as words communicate, it doesn’t matter about spelling and grammar, right? Wrong! In this blog, we look at why proofreading is so important and why for a business it can be make or break.

The importance of proofreading

Imagine the scene. You’re about to spend a large chunk of your hard-earned cash on an extension. You’ve got two options for builders – both have good recommendations, are local and specialise in what you’re looking for. One has a well-designed and well-written website. The other has a great website but it’s peppered with spelling mistakes and it lacks clarity. From the two, which do you choose? Most likely the company who has demonstrated an eye for detail and has taken care over their ‘shopfront’. After all, you don’t want your walls built ‘quite straight’ – you want them to be perfect.

Now, imagine you’re the builder. The one who just missed out on a big job. The impression your website made on your potential client was what lost it for you. Perhaps not everyone will be so bothered about the mistakes, but if it’s losing you even one client, that’s enough to ring alarm bells. And the solution is so simple. Proofreading!

Proofreading is not just about giving something a quick read through to spot any glaring errors. Of course, if you’re tight on time and budget, a proofreader can help you in that way. The wonderful trouble with proofreaders though is that they find skim reading impossible! They’re the black belts of the editorial world. Their skills are so finely honed they can spot a mistake at 50 paces. Wearing a blindfold. Some say they can even smell a typo …

What does proofreading entail?

Proofreaders are not ordinary people. Sure, lots of people can spot a spelling mistake or a pesky misplaced possessive apostrophe, but proofreading is about so much more than that. Along with spelling, grammar and punctuation, a proofreader uses their beady eye to check:

  • Is the style consistent? (Did you start the extension brutalist and then finish it rococo?)
  • Is everything clear? Does it make sense?
  • Are the facts correct? (No, T. Smith & Sons, you did not build the Tower of London.)
  • Are headings and different heading levels used clearly and consistently?
  • Is the contents page correct? And that’s just for starters, then there are the page numbers, running heads, footers …
  • How is the layout looking? Is it easy to read? Has a key feature been lost in the design process?

Phew. It’s a lot to think about. You may be asking yourself, ‘Does a proofreader ever switch off?’ The simple answer is ‘no’. We’re the annoying people who keep a black marker in our pocket for correcting errors whenever and wherever we see them. There’s a whole world of crazy signage, sloppy marketing and typo-ridden content out there to be dealt with. It’s our mission to correct (and politely recommend amendments) and we love it.

The little details make a big difference

While proofreaders do love dotting an ‘i’, it isn’t just for personal satisfaction (well, maybe just a little). Having your content proofread allows you to present the best version of your business or organisation. It’s the professional touch that brings in the business, persuades stakeholders, sells an idea or influences your audience. Basically, those important things that you measure your success by. Underestimate the power of well-crafted, well-presented and proofread content at your peril.

POSTSCRIPT: Spellcheck tools are neither your best friend nor a replacement for a proofreader. I direct the jury to consider Exhibit A where a spellcheck on a restaurant menu changed ‘Roasted Aubergines’ to ‘Roasted Aborigines’. Spellcheck mistake plus a lack of proofreading – double fail (as well as a glut of unordered vegetables).

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