Most people need a proofreader or editor at some point…

It’s been a bit quiet on the business-planning front this week, what with the copy-editing job, school Christmas events and shopping to do, so I thought I’d take a moment to look a bit more at some examples of why – however big or small a business you have – a proofreader can make the world of difference.

I mentioned the issue a couple of weeks ago in this blog (Are Spelling Mistakes Costing You Money?), quoting a BBC article which stated that spelling is

important to the credibility of a website (…) When there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.

And this doesn’t just apply to websites; it goes for any written documentation, and is particularly relevant if you’re trying to project a professional and educated image.

To start things off, on Wednesday this week Metro had this lovely picture of a polce car:

polceObviously they won’t lose customers over it, but if you can’t even spell your job title, you’re in danger of looking just a little bit silly…

If you’re primarily using print advertising, particularly if you’re a sole trader, you don’t want to risk putting off potential customers in the space of a few lines. Take this example of an advert that appeared in one of my local papers this week:

“No protections of assests can lead to no inheritance”

xx [name left out for obvious reasons]

8 year’s experience

House Trusts, Wills, Probate

Lasting Power of Attorney

I’m no legal expert, but I can immediately see two major errors in those 20 words – ‘assests’ and ‘8 year’s experience’ – and I would have to query whether it should in fact be ‘protection’ in the bold red heading, rather than the plural ‘protections’. The final nail in the coffin for me is the fact that the web address the solicitor gives is incorrect: the real address has hyphens between the three words, yet if you type in the one printed in the advert, you get

This web page is not available

in a lovely clear font in the middle of your browser window.

If I asked this man to write me a will, would he even spell my name right?

As for the big guys, well…

This classic video from ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Word Crimes, makes a really good argument for employing a proofreader (although his inappropriate usage of the word ‘spastic’ really rankles) in a much funnier way than I ever could, but at 3:20 the following appears on the screen:

Weird Al Word Crimes ERROR

Have you spotted it yet? No?

Try the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Learn your ABC’s, doofus

As the indispensable reference work New Hart’s Rules (Oxford University Press, 2005) puts it,

[t]he apostrophe is not necessary in forming the plural of names, abbreviations, and other words not used as nouns.

The only case it is acceptable – and this isn’t one of those cases – is

when clarity calls for it, for example when letters or symbols are referred to as objects:

dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

‘Weird Al’, you’ve undermined your own argument.

In some cases – such as the police car pictured above – it would just take a second pair of eyes to check before the request goes to the signage company. In others, it wouldn’t do any harm to track down a proofreader and ask them about their rates. Whether you’re putting together a small advert in your local paper, a leaflet, brochure, annual report or even self-publishing a novel, spending a relatively small amount extra could really make a big difference to how your business is perceived.


P.S. My rates are very reasonable, and no job is too small!