It’s happened to everyone: you see a mistake on a sign, in a book, in a pamphlet, on a menu. You laugh, take a picture of it and share it with your friends, thinking, “How could someone have missed that?” Spelling, punctuation and grammar errors have become a point of ridicule, especially with the advent of instant image sharing, yet so many people don’t even bother to check their work for these bothersome blunders. Proofreading and editing your work should be an integral part of your process, no matter what the project.
You’re probably wondering why you should be spending precious time scrutinizing each word like a kid learning to read. I get it–you have a fast-approaching deadline on a big project and fifteen other things on your agenda just for today. Here: being a proofreader is like being a bomb-sniffing dog; you’re trying to neutralize an enemy that could destroy something that’s been carefully crafted. If that doesn’t grab you (really?), I’ve put together a concise list of five reasons why proofreading should be a basic part of your procedure.
1) Accuracy. Put the wrong date on the website, people show up on the wrong day and get annoyed, and your client has probably just lost some customers. A lot of mix-ups–some small and some horribly large–can happen when your critical information is erroneous. Misspellings, in addition to hitting the wrong number key, can be a big cause of information inaccuracy. (Sending out a flyer that says, “Come to The Sound of Music Sin-a-long!” is really going to give your audience the wrong idea.) Some are obvious, but a lot of them are tiny and easily missed if you’re not paying attention. Don’t expect Spell Check to catch them all–a computer doesn’t know the difference between waist and waste. Ew.
2) Quality work. Pamphlets don’t get sent to the client with pixilated photos, and the same idea should be applied anywhere words appear. Your clients are important, and quality work will show them that. They’ve hired you to give them a business-enhancing image; you were chosen out of many others. Give them back what they gave to you.
3) Good business. This one is connected to the point above. Handing your client one page that says, “Intern Ational Dialling Codes” and another page with the phrase spelled correctly makes it look like you consider their project, the one they’ve voluntarily and with trust given to you, unimportant enough to pay attention to. Believe me, they’re not going to enjoy the “find-the-error” scavenger hunt.
4) Efficiency. Remember in the accuracy section when I said that mix-ups can happen when you’ve sent out the wrong dates? Here’s the next part: once you’ve realized that, you’re going to end up taking time away from other projects to send a bunch of emails rectifying the situation. It takes less time to check your work (remember when you learned that in high school?) than to get it sent back to be worked on a second time. Frantically calling your client about your mistake is kind of awkward.
5) Showing you care about your client and their business. This one should be pretty obvious. Marketing is a client-service business, so it’s all about them. Your work should say that you didn’t just do this for the business, but because you’re really into it. If all this happens, in the end, everybody wins.
I hope this helps you with your work, and that it can aid you in honoring your work’s message by using editing to craft and form it into perfection. No typos aloud…er, allowed.
*For an amusing and informative look at the value of proofreading, grab The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson from your local library. It’s the story of two guys traveling around America, making corrections (or at least trying to) on any errors they find. Their journey also ends up revealing the power of language and issues in how people communicate.