Proofreading: I Feel the Pain

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By Fran Fahey

If you are a business owner, you write every day. Emails, notes, newsletters, articles, blog posts, Facebook updates, you name it, you’ve gotta write it. And as far as writing correctly, you either chew your nails over “its” versus “it’s,” or you don’t—you write what you think is right and hope the reader will forgive you if it isn’t.

You might think that it’s easy as an editor to proof my own stuff, but no. It’s even more painful, because I check everything I write thoroughly and still make mistakes. I’m here to tell you, though, how important it is to make sure everything you write is as accurate as possible, because it all reflects on you as a business person and professional.

I have seen much in my years of editing for businesses. Believe it or not, I have seen people misspell their own company name—which to an editor is like fingernails on a chalkboard! So here’s my advice.

Don’t trust your computer program. Forget spell check and grammar check; you won’t like it when they turn “publick” into “pubic,” only to notice after you’ve sent out that letter to your local historical society. Do the work. Use Merriam Webster for spelling and a free online writing guide like Paradigm.

Check for more than spelling and grammar. Check font for consistent size and weight; check headings (a typical place for errors); check your phone number, email address, and company name. Proof also for clarity and tone.

Read it over. Don’t ever, ever, ever send anything out without reading it carefully first. The simplest email can turn off a customer if it’s full of errors, an attachment is missing, or you sound angry or perturbed when you really aren’t.

Let it sit. The best thing you can do, if you have 24 hours, is to let it sit and read it again tomorrow. Pretend it’s wine and let it keep aging. You won’t believe what you find if you read it with fresh eyes.

Get a second set of eyes. Have a colleague or a trusted friend read it.

Get help. If you aren’t good at writing, or don’t have someone else who can give it a clean read-through, get someone like me to do it for you. Proofreaders are fast, reasonably priced, and we’ll help you look marvelous. Good luck!

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