Shhh, Proofreader at Work!
To err is human, so the saying goes and it’s true. We all make mistakes. It’s perfectly normal. In fact, making mistakes is how we learn. But there is that rare breed of person who sees things others don’t.
When something is awry, you can see their faces twitch. Their eyebrows scrunch up. Alarm bells start ringing and these people swoop in for a better look.
Who am I talking about?
The elusive, wondrous proofreader. The one charged with chasing textual errors down dark alleys and frisking the text to remove all the bad pennies. And…they’re relentless.
Proofreaders catch the kind of errors others miss because they don’t see things the way other people do. They’re always hunting. You can’t just read, that’s not how this world works.
As I sit reading the menu in a little café I unconsciously reach for the pen in my bag. I can’t help myself. I peruse items such as ‘Wholemeat toast’ and ‘organic chicken beast’ while I decide if I want meat in my toast or just how mean that chicken really is. Now, there are two things to note here: firstly, I know how annoying this must be for some readers, and secondly, I really can’t help it. Proofreaders will proofread all the time.
I get it. The café is in the business of selling food, not writing. Just as I couldn’t whip up my own puff pastry, I don’t expect perfection from the menu. What annoys me is that it could have been easily fixed with a simple proofread.
I’m an editor and a proofreader so I simply can’t understand how these errors escaped anyone’s attention. In general company, when I say, “I’m a proofreader”, the response is usually somewhere on the spectrum from “how nice (crickets…) and anyway” to “Oh well, you must be really good at spelling.” And it’s true, by the nature of the job, Proofreaders are good at spelling. You would hope so wouldn’t you? Just as I hope my tax accountant is good with numbers. Proofreading is a skill. It requires patience, persistence, and an eye for the finer details of the English language.
An Eagle Eye
Think of a proofreader as being able to give you back time and they’ll also save you money. Proofreaders are specialists at their jobs. You write the copy and we let you get on with the rest of your work without you having to worry about that rouge, or rogue comma–see what I did there? Or missed hyphens and misspelled words.
It’s not all about the spelling. That’s important but there are many other things Proofreaders have to look out for. I wrote an article on the value of plain English in Keep it Simple. Give it a read for some helpful tips.
When you write, you often become ‘blind’ because you have been working with the copy for so long it all looks perfect in your eyes. Things you might never notice because your eye is not trained to spot inconsistencies in spellings, fonts, or that extra space after a sentence.
Proofreaders are your built-in, consistent style guide.
Proofreading is Time Well Spent
It’s fair to say that most people don’t have time for this close scrutiny. Deadlines loom, content calendars are full and once you’ve written the piece it’s a big high five and on to the next item. But signing off on a written piece for production, without a final proofread is like heading out for the day without cleaning your teeth. You’ll get that furry, uncomfortable feeling and start to worry about getting too close to people. It’s uncomfortable and worrisome. The end result will almost certainly fall short of your expectations–there should always be time allocated for proofreading, just as you should always clean your teeth in the morning.
The best solution is to program time into the schedule for a thorough edit and final proofreading.
The Pitfalls and Cost of Not Proofreading
Do you want your readers to be tripping over typos while trying to take in what you’re talking about? Of course not. You want the reading experience to be as easy as possible so that your message is understood. So, It’s not a matter of whether you can afford a proofreader, it’s whether you can afford not to proofread.
Our written word is often the first way we make an impression on an audience—it only takes one error and one attentive reader – to question your message and your reputation.
The cost of not adequately proofreading can be dire. The article, 5 Times Hiring a Proofreader Could Have Saved Millions of Dollars, looks at the most costly errors for companies as a result of not proofreading–Ouch!
The potential ill effects of sloppy language are even greater if your writing depends on accuracy for example, in industry, business, or for legal compliance.
A proofreader can be worth their weight in wine (or gold, or diamonds), whichever you prefer if they save you money, time, embarrassment, and protect your brand reputation.
Contact me today and let me give you back time–you simply can’t lose!