In the 17th century our word was a guarantee of credibility and trustworthiness. An individual’s reputation depended on keeping one’s word. Today we are rather less earnest. Yet the words we use and the way in which we use them are just as important to our credibility. Which is why it is so very important to get them right.
Today I got it wrong. I discharged the ultimate copywriting bullet, straight into my own foot. I circulated a branded newsletter, publicising the news and updates of a fastidiously detailed and incredibly proficient communications firm, only to realise it had gone out with not one, but TWO errors. The shame.
Why is proofreading so very important?
1.It impacts your potential to persuade
When we publish reports, write blogs or make speeches, there is always an objective. It may be to educate, it may be to garner investment. Whatever the ultimate goal, we invariably want (need) to convince our audience of something. Carelessness with the quality of words will speak volumes about an organisation’s commitment to quality and will impact any authority it may hold on on its subject matter.
2.It increases your chance of publication.
Editors, curators, in fact anyone who reads and disseminates content these days, is inundated with copy. We all glance at and scroll by far more articles than we could ever realistically read and digest. When we do invest the time to read something and share it with our communities, social currency is a key factor. That is to say, what we talk about, inevitably determines what others perceive of us. People are therefore highly unlikely to consciously share shoddy content, even if the overall message is outstanding.
Having committed all of the above sins and ‘fessed up to the boss (and all before my morning coffee!) I’ve put together five golden rules for proofreading before publishing. Please do learn from my mistake.
Many eyes are better than two.
There’s no ‘I’ in team, nor is there a misplaced apostrophe. When you’ve been looking at a document for so long that you’re not seeing it anymore, you need a fresh pair of eyes. At Thwaites we ensure that each communication has been proofread by two members of the team before it is signed off for publication (and just look at what happened the one time we didn’t!)
Facts are as important as grammar and spelling
It may seem obvious but if you’re quoting statistics to prove your point, check that they are correct. Are you using them in context? Is the source of that information credible? If you’re building an argument, your foundations must be sound.
Read the room
Who are you writing for exactly? Is the tone of your work suitable for its target audience? Specialised terminology should be explained or (preferably) removed altogether. If you want people to read your content, it has to be accessible and it should cater for modern attention spans.
Check the tech
Ensure all of your buttons, anchors and hyperlinks are working. If your reader is interested enough to click on that ‘call to action’ but the white paper, special offer or event registration doesn’t appear, all of your hard work will be for nothing (not to mention the negative impact of broken links on your SEO) Check and double check your links to make sure those user journeys reach their destination.
Software is your secret weapon. There are some terrific apps and programmes out there that will support you as you work. Grammarly’s plugin provides contextual spell-checking, advanced grammar rules and can even check for potential plagiarism issues. Meanwhile, Yoast’s traffic light system shows up simple changes that can make your content more readable for SEO.