Confident Business Writing

Make an impression by avoiding these simple proofreading errors

proofreading tips

Last updated: 21/04/2016

Use proofreading to make your content sparkle from the get-go

Words can be feral creatures requiring a firm hand and grammatical whip to keep them in check. It’s a literary jungle out there, not just for book writers, but those crafting messages for companies.

Proofreading is essential

Not everyone is an experienced wordsmith. But when sending communications either to promote your business or in the course of day-to-day operations, bear in mind that first impressions count.

Serving up poorly written text will make potential customers think twice about doing business with you. And in some cases can literally cost you as these cases below show.

Missing comma gets woman off parking ticket

An appeals court has sided with an Ohio woman who said her parking ticket should be overlooked because the village law was missing a comma

According to this report Andrea Cammelleri said she should not have been issued a citation in 2014 based on the wording of the law enacted by the village of West Jefferson. The law lists several types of vehicles that cannot be parked longer than 24 hours, including a “motor vehicle camper,” with the comma missing between “vehicle” and “camper”. Ms Cammelleri said the pickup truck did not fit that definition.

Fare increase misprint costs $250k

A misprint on 80,000 subway posters by New York City’s Transportation Authority had the wrong fare information. Instead of showing a fare rise to $5, it showed $4.50. This cost around $250,000 in re-printing fees.

It’s not rocket science…

Grammarly also highlights one of the most infamous typos, called “the most expensive hyphen in history” by Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1962 NASA launched its Mariner 1 Venus flyby mission.

After a decade of construction and meticulous calculation, a single hyphen missing from the coding was all it took to send the project off course, costing NASA $80 million.

You may not have such high stakes as NASA, but as Charles Duncombe states, a single spelling mistake can cut your online sales by half. The oft quoted Mr Duncombe tells us how poor spelling is costing the UK £millions in lost revenue for online business.

It’s not just revenue but your reputation at stake too. People might wonder what else in your company might be shoddy, alongside your spelling and grammar.

Simple proofreading tips
Proofread and avoid costly mistakes

Here are some handy proofreading tools to guide you through the writing wilderness.

Read it backwards

This disrupts your natural reading flow and makes you read word by word instead of skimming.

For your eyes only?

Asking for a second opinion is a good idea – they may spot something you’ve overlooked.

Technical wizardry

Online tools such as prowritingaid and grammarly are invaluable, not just for finding spelling or grammar errors, but for picking up things such as correctly spelt words in the wrong place. They can improve your writing by pointing out elements such as hidden verbs; who knew?!

Say it loud

Reading aloud is a highly effective proofreading technique and helps to find repetition.

Don’t look back in anger

Take a break and return later with fresh eyes. It’s hard to find mistakes when you’re in the middle of writing a piece.

One problem at a time

Read through several times focusing on different areas such as sentence flow, grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Hard copy

Print out a copy. Reading in a new format gives you a different perspective. If you’re concerned about environmental or printing costs, change the font on your screen instead. This might give you an alternative view and help pick up errors.

It’s a wild place out there but you don’t need to travel it alone. Pack these essential proofreading tips in your rucksack, let them guide you through your writing journey and tame your words.

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