Help! Get me a proofreader!
As a copywriter, I’ve seen my share of ‘linguistic train wrecks’— written material with spelling or grammatical errors or is just plain unreadable.
It goes without saying that anything you release to clients reflects on your business, which begs the question: Why are many businesses so blasè when it comes to their written material?
Though I consider myself to be pretty good with words (after all, I write for a living), I’m not ashamed to say that I use a proofreader. Why? Well, no matter how good you are, most people find it difficult to spot their own mistakes. How often have you written something like, I am writing to to you to express…? It happens to me all the time. I hate the thought of a client spotting an error from me, which is why I ask a colleague, with a fresh set of eyes, to check all my work before I release it.
Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a process for checking my own work. However, I do think it’s a good idea to have a safety net as a last line of defence.
My work-checking process
1: Take a break
When I’m writing a web page or a blog, I like to take rests. This doesn’t mean that I have a cup of tea and a lie down. No, I switch to another job. I usually work on several projects simultaneously. This allows me to return to a job with a fresh perspective and not only do I seem more able to spot silly mistakes, more often than not, I will re-write sections for better flow.
2: Print your document
I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to read from a sheet of paper than a computer screen. For this reason, when a job is nearly ready to go, I will print it out to proofread. Like taking a break, this gives me a fresh perspective.
3. Get a fresh pair of eyes
As mentioned earlier in this piece, most people find it difficult to spot their own mistakes. It seems that we see what we believe we’ve written instead of what is actually on the page/screen. If the job is important (if it’s going to a client, it always is), I strongly recommend, as a final step, you ask a colleague, with good English skills, to check your work.
A copy editor for the big jobs
For web content or marketing material it may be worth using a copy editor. Let’s face it, error-free material still doesn’t guarantee that it will actually achieve its purpose — generate sales.
A copy editor will shape your written material by culling unnecessary words, developing eye-catching headlines and rearranging the copy into a persuasive format for maximum impact.
Make sure they have a background in sales or marketing, though, because there’s a big difference between editing a book and editing sales copy.