We’re celebrating the launch of a free proofreading course with proof proofreading matters!
Proofreading shmoofreading, blah, blah, blah… If that’s your attitude toward this critical communication tool, read on to learn how typos can cost businesses millions of dollars—and even damage careers.
How Proofreading Protects Your Brand…and Bottom Line
Proofreading is important to you as an individual and to your company, for several reasons (some quite costly!).
For an individual, proofreading protects (or even builds) your credibility. Mistakes in your writing tell others you’re not detail-oriented, or that you don’t care enough about your work or your reader to proofread. (And your “reader” might be your boss, a potential investor or an important client.)
For an organization, proofreading can save money and brand. For example, a post from Vappingo describes 10 famous mistakes proofreading didn’t catch and the consequences of each, including:
- A bible telling readers to commit adultery
- An airline that sold 2,000 tickets at $39 each instead of the correct $3,900 price
- A recipe in a cookbook with an ingredient so horribly wrong I don’t want to include it here (but you can see it for yourself)
- Pubic ballots for an election in Michigan
- And Chilean coins with the name of the country misspelled, which apparently are still in circulation
Ways not Proofreading Can Cost You Money
For a business, there are obvious mistakes that can cause a loss of revenue, such as:
- The wrong phone number, email address, website URL or physical address
- The wrong date, time or price
But simple punctuation errors can be costly too. Even a misplaced comma can result in a $2.13 million loss. (Read about that and four other horribly expensive typos with 5 Times Hiring a Proofreader Could Have Saved Millions of Dollars.)
Even a misplaced comma can result in a $2.13 million loss.
Advertising the wrong price or deadline can have a direct impact on the bottom line, as with the airline selling tickets for $39. But there can be indirect costs too. If mistakes go unnoticed, users, readers or customers can get frustrated. That’s damaging to your brand. And these frustrated people might take up time talking with customer service reps, or they might click away and abandon their shopping carts altogether.
For an individual, mistakes in workplace writing can lower your credibility, or even result in a miscommunication. From a dollar standpoint, it seems grammatical errors can get in the way of promotions too.
We All Make Mistakes
Typos, mistakes, grammar errors…are we just dumb? Careless? Not at all. We make mistakes because writing is a “very high-level task” and our brains ignore some details in order to focus on conveying meaning.
And that makes proofreading an absolute necessity. Once we’ve conveyed our meaning, we must go back and error-proof our writing so our mistakes don’t distract from that meaning (or even change it).
But wait, there’s more than checking for typos…
Proofreading Requires More than a Red Pen Checking for Typos
When proofreading, we need to check for usability too. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a confusing website or form because the instructions weren’t clear, you’ll know what I mean.
For example, during 12 days with Internet issues a few months ago, I received this email from CenturyLink (my Internet provider) telling me to use a ticket number to check on my repair status. But the email doesn’t tell me my ticket number or where to find it. It gives me a Notification ID, but what is that? Is that my ticket number? How am I supposed to check the status of my repair without that ticket number?? (Never mind the fact that they are telling me to go online to check when I couldn’t which is why I needed a repair. Duh!)
Two Secrets to Avoiding Costly Proofreading Errors
We all want to avoid looking stupid, and we definitely want to avoid anything that costs our businesses millions of dollars, right? So what to do? Proofread! But it’s not as simple as that, because proofreading is harder than you think. Therefore, I offer you two pieces of advice to help you avoid costly proofreading errors.
One: Learn to proofread.
Your first step is to become an effective proofreader. Remember, we aren’t talking about getting jobs as freelance proofreaders. We’re talking about you proofreading your own workplace writing to avoid errors, and/or you proofreading your company’s content to avoid brand damage and loss of revenue.
You might think you proofread your own writing just fine, thank you very much, but you probably don’t. As this article at Wired.com says, “The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.” We can, however, get better by learning to spot common mistakes and practicing to train our eyes to spot the mistakes.
“The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.”
No, really. Take the class. It will help more than you realize. (Or suggest it to that colleague who needs it.)
Two: Slow down.
After you take the free proofreading course, your second step is to slow down, both when writing and when you take the time to proofread after writing. If we think about it, we can easily tell when emails in our inbox are dashed off without much care or thought. And when that happens, mistakes are made, communication becomes confusion, and more emails are required. This also applies to other documentation and content, such as reports, web pages and more.
If you’re struggling to slow down so you can take more time with your workplace writing (and proofreading), try these ideas:
- Minimize the distraction of your smartphone. It’s doing more damage than you realize.
- Slow down your life. Yes, I did just say that. And yes, you can.
- Drop out of the cult of busy-ness. You’ll be glad you did.
(Is slowing down counter cultural? In some circles, yes. But it’s also worth it, and it’s time. In fact, I just discovered something called the Slow Movement that encourages people to step away from the fast pace and enjoy life a bit more. I’ve done it, and I’m here to tell you life is better in the slow lane.)
Cracking the Proofreading Code
It’s a fact: The biggest proofreading mistake is not proofreading at all. Once you realize the importance of that basic task, all you need to do is incorporate it into your workday. Taking the free proofreading course will give you a headstart. Then you will improve when you practice, until you’ve cracked the proofreading code and you’ve developed an eagle eye, for mistakes but also for usability.
The biggest proofreading mistake is not proofreading at all.
And who knows? You might just move up that career ladder or be the hero that saves the company a boatload of money because you’ve got an eagle eye!