There’s a sign in the parking building where I park each day that reads: Pay at pay station’s located on ground level.
Every time I walk past it I wince and have seriously considered taking a black marker or some tape to eliminate that apostrophe, grammar vigilante style. The sign is repeated on every level of the building and it makes me wonder what process led to them being drafted, created, printed and bolted to the wall without the error being spotted and corrected. Where was the proofreading?
True, an errant apostrophe is not the end of the world. But it is something that can be easily avoided and when you’re paying money to print signs, produce a report, or build a website, it makes sense to get the basics right.
Why proofreading is important
Text free from basic errors allows people to focus on the information you want to communicate, or buy in to the idea you want to sell. In a news release or important report, basic errors are small hits to your credibility. They draw the focus away from your point and, in a worst case scenario, they can fundamentally change the meaning of what you’re trying to say (Eats Shoots & Leaves, anyone?). I had to go back to the car park building while writing this to check what the sign actually said, because all I could remember was the word ‘station’s’.
Speed is often the enemy. Open an online news site and you’ll find examples of how the need to get information out fast is often done at the expense of good quality proofing. Taking a bit of extra time to check for errors in grammar and spelling is always worth it, and doesn’t necessarily mean adding hours to a job.
Make proofreading part of your standard workflow
While there are no ultra-quick hacks for proofing text properly, here at Wordage we have a few systems in place to help make the process faster and easier.
- Use spellcheck, but don’t rely on it. Words can be spelled right but still used incorrectly, for example ‘their’ and ‘there’ are both correct but mean different things.
- Have a good writing style guide. Sadly, sometimes the style guides we write for clients go in a ‘bottom drawer’ computer file, never to be used again. Making use of a common set of rules and standards for company writing style provides a quick reference on common errors, ensures consistency and quickly becomes second nature.
- Always get a second set of eyes. Do this before the final version goes out. The longer you spend with content, the more you see what you think you’ve written. The ‘second set of eyes’ means someone else takes a fresh look to check for errors you don’t even see any more.
Grammar police tendencies aside, making proofreading a fundamental part of every piece of communication you produce will always yield a better result. Otherwise you may spot me on site, black marker and masking tape in hand.