6 essential proofreading tips for professional business comms
Proofreading is all about projecting a professional image with well-written documents that are 100% accurate. A well-written and accurate document showcases your credibility and enhances your business reputation. It gives you an edge over the competition.
Last week I got a little over-excited at the prospect of celebrating National Proofreading day. Unfortunately Wednesday 8th March was a little over-shadowed by the budget and International Women’s day, and only the grammar geeks amongst us marked this most momentous day!
A few days ago, I received my company accounts for review. I didn’t just scan over the draft and trust that everything was in order. I proofed it to the same standard that I do all my client work, and I spotted two typos and fed them back! The document is a reflection of me and my business, and I want anyone that reads it to have trust and confidence in both, therefore accuracy is key.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I am one of those people who carries a Sharpie round to correct spelling, punctuation and grammar when I’m out and about. If I could have safely pulled over on to the hard-shoulder on my way into Manchester recently to correct a series of grammatically incorrect road signs, I would have done so!
It doesn't matter what size business you have, there is simply no excuse for poorly written content. So whilst I’m on the subject, here are 6 simple proofreading rules to prevent your business falling into the trap:
Print it out - don't rely on spell checker and auto-correct. You read a document differently on paper than on a screen and the change of format will help you to spot mistakes more easily.
Use a ruler or piece of paper to help you focus on one line at a time.
Read it out loud - saying the words rather than reading them silently can flag errors.
Point at words with your finger whilst you speak them out loud.
If you know you frequently make the same error, do one proof of your text just to look for that mistake.
When proofing text in tables, read down columns instead of across rows. Looking at the information in a different way can help you to spot errors.
It’s almost impossible to proof your own work
Nobody’s perfect. We all make errors. It’s almost impossible to proof your own work. Often, you’ll look at a document for so long, you'll become oblivious to the errors you’ve made. Always try and pass your document to a trusted colleague to review. Here are two of my own classic examples:
Before I launched my business website, I sent the link over to a trusted friend and asked her to review it for me. She responded to say it was fantastic but there was a typo on one of the pages. I was so grateful to her for pointing this out!
A friend recently contacted me when they spotted a small typo in one of my blogs. I’d started a sentence with ‘I’ rather than ‘If’. Again, it’s an easy mistake to make, and one that your average spell-checker will never pick up.
In my professional opinion, every piece of written communication you issue should be checked and proofed prior to pressing send or print. That means taking care with emails, tweets, posts, brochures, letters, case studies, printing proofs, white papers, and particularly proposals and tenders.
If you don’t have the in-house resource to do this, then use a proofreader. I will happily get my Sharpie out to help you maintain a professional and credible business reputation.