To proof or not to proof

To proof or not to proof

Few companies understand the value of a good copywriter and even fewer the value of a good proofreader.

Today, as I work through some client-written copy for an SEO revamp, I am faced with the usual cluster of misplaced semicolons, instances of ‘which’ when ‘that’ would be much more pleasant and sentences that look like they were compiled by an eager six-year-old. It’s clear that terrible grammar can ruin perfectly good copy.

That said, in this day and age who cares? With the language of TXT (or is that SMS?), blogs and email, grammar has been pushed from its lofty peak of importance to the domain of ‘anal’ ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘uptight’ writers.

I know I’m old school, but if I’m lucky enough to spot a glaring spelling mistake, misuse of commas or even a ‘but’ at the start of a sentence my skin tends to crawl. All this despite the fact that, when I was at school, italic handwriting and ‘movement’ classes were prioritised over good grammar.learn-copywriting-courses

I sometimes struggle with spelling. It takes me a good minute to remember what an adverb is and I wouldn’t know the subjunctive tense if it bit me on the behind. So how do I manage?

Well, I could just leave these errors, knowing that 90% of my audience wouldn’t spot them either. A great proof in point is this article. Since it went live, it’s been read by several people, most (including my good self) missed a heap of errors. Typos, missing words, extra words, misplaced apostrophes and commas. It wasn’t until a particularly anal friend read it through that most of these errors came to light. There are probably still many mistakes lurking in these few scant paragraphs.

So, I go to bed each night fretting over the damage I’m doing to the English language, and perhaps more disturbing than that, the fact that the majority of readers will neither notice nor care.

My advice is: Before you publish – proofread your work. Use a professional proofreader if possible. Do not use the person who actually wrote the copy to proofread their own work. (It’s extremely difficult to spot errors you’ve made yourself.) If you can’t afford the services of a good proofreader, then at least give the copy to the oldest person in the office and get them to have a little ‘look see’.

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  • Daniele Imperi

    I agree. I think you’re right. In Italy we have the same problem. I read a lot of blogs by professional bloggers, social media managers and, yes, copywriters and I find grammar errors.

    I ask myself: do they know the grammar? What did they learn to the school?

    But the worst problem is, as you said, that the readers don’t care about these errors. They don’t see them.

    • Hey Daniele, thank you for your comment. Did you know this was the first ever blog I posted? I’ve learned so much since then but still swear by a proof reader! Even the smallest of errors can put off a potential client!

  • Kerry McCarthy

    I think it is comforting for copywriters everywhere to remember that every writer makes mistakes and that it is impossible to edit your own work!

    I am a stickler for good grammar, regardless of whether or not someone else will notice. I think it is great advice to get someone, anyone, to have a look at what you are about to publish – it is a must!

    • Yep Kerry I so agree. I make a huge amount of mistakes when I write. I’m often embarrassed to see my copy come back from the proof reader with so much mark up! The brain tends to fill in words, gloss over mistakes and generally ignore all those errors. So best to get a separate brain to rip your copy to shreds!

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