If you work for a company that has in-house writers who produce corporate content, you may have heard them quizzing: “Why do I need a professional proofreader when I can just use a work colleague or other friend to check my work?” This underlines a common misconception that a professional proofreader is something of an obstacle or enemy – when the reality is that a professional proofreader is your dearest and closest friend!
My aim is true
As in your social circle, a professional proofreader acts just like your best friend by watching your back and keeping you out of trouble. But unlike your best mate, a professional proofreader is not simply winging it because they like you: they are trained and have years of experience in troubleshooting and risk management. They know the likelihood of you facing danger, they anticipate your wrong turns and they actively keep you from getting into trouble!
A professional proofreader is more than someone who is just looking for typos. Of course they will make sure that, when your report refers to ‘focussing on the pubic sector’, you wouldn’t rather prefer your readers to be ‘focusing on the public sector’; and they’ll make sure that your report is ‘draft’ instead of ‘daft’!
A work colleague or friend may be an experienced reader and super interested in seeing your writing. But an experienced proofreader is more targeted with a clear aim: they know that ‘complaint’ and ‘compliant’ are often mistyped, thus saving you from a lengthy scheduled meeting with your Finance Manager to explain your attitude. And they know the common words that a computer spellchecker won’t pick up: such as ‘manager’ and ‘manger’, ‘health’ and ‘heath’ for starters. There are many other potential mistakes that a proofreader has seen before that you and your colleagues may not be as familiar with.
Everyday I write the book
Suggesting to a writer that they take another look at their wording used to be strictly the domain of the editor. But in some organisations, the editor’s role has slowly crept into the proofreader’s domain. Once again, it may be tempting to offer this role to a colleague. But this can result in false economy: a professional is someone who has distance from your writing, your content theme and your organisation – and that can be a very valuable asset. A professional proofreader has no preconceptions, makes no assumptions and has no vested interests. As your trusted outside expert, your proofreader shares your concern – your readers: whether that’s one line manager, a small team of employees or your company shareholders.
Professional proofreaders are trained and practised to notice things that other readers skim over. When they see that someone is an ‘adviser’ they’ll swiftly search to check that the person is not described as an ‘advisor’ elsewhere in the report. When they see that the Managing Director has been ‘divisive’ they’ll immediately check to make sure you didn’t mean ‘decisive’!
They are also trained to quickly identify regular sandbanks that can trap writers: grammatical errors, unclear wording and inconsistencies in style. And they won’t be afraid to ask a question or point out when something could potentially cause confusion for readers. After all, it’s better to be asked a difficult or embarrassing question by an outsider rather than have it come from your CEO, committee members or busy clients at a time when your trusted work colleague will be in no position to back you up.
Watching the detectives
Just as a detective works collaboratively with a team of other experts in forensic science, ballistics, handwriting, fingerprints and financial evidence trails, a professional proofreader has worked with a range of in-house and external content and design teams when checking proofs. They know the digital design process and they are aware of a designer’s modus operandi – and this can sometimes introduce errors. So, when a proofreader sees a document with many similar sections, they’ll forensically scan the report because they know that a designer may have copied and pasted content such as sub-headings, headers, footers, captions and credits, and ‘boilerplate’ content including your company mission statement and copyright notice, for ease of working when making design templates. Your trusted colleague at work is likely to skate across these boring or seemingly insignificant parts of your report.
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?
There are many tasks in everyday life that we might be tempted to try for ourselves, but we use a qualified person because it’s a false economy not to use an experienced professional. In an era when consumers are alert to typing errors as a signal of a potential scam, think of the possible reputational damage to yourself and your company. For example, how can an organisation expect its employees to have serious attention to detail, or health and safety, when it relies on a computer program to subtitle its training video as ‘service with a smell’ rather than ‘service with a smile’ and let that go unchecked?
Yes, your work colleague may have the IQ to use AI (such as a spellchecker), but do they have the emotional quotient (EQ) to really love your writing, and the well-honed practice to really understand your point? Will they work with you to make your document, report, email, slide deck or brochure as clear and free of confusion as possible for your readers to help you get your message across? It’s worth asking the question – and then enlisting a professional. Contact us today to find out more about our proofreading support.