Don’t let a missing apostrophe come between you and success.

How errors in your work can undermine your message and turn readers and customers off.
Just as we make initial judgements of people within a few seconds of meeting them, we also make judgements on companies and individuals by what they present to us in the written word. A misspelled word or missing apostrophe can jar. As a customer it would make me think twice about using the company. As a reader I want to be able to focus on content and not the errors.

"I'm a great writer and have excellent spelling and grammar skills - why would I need to pay anyone to read my work for me?" This is something I hear a lot. The truth is, of course, that however good we are at writing and however much we know our oxford commas from our widows and orphans, we do not always see the mistakes in our own work.

When you've been working hard on a project for days, weeks, months, it's easy to stop really 'reading' what you've written. You know what you meant to say, so you read it in that way. In addition, spell check features will correct words to other words that look fine when you know what you meant to say. It is not easy to spot an incorrect word when you are skim-reading something you know inside out and it doesn’t have those helpful red lines underneath.

Proofreading is an essential part of the writing process and, I believe, can be the difference between success and failure. However, it’s something that many marketeers, companies and individuals skip over - usually to save time or cost. Imagine working for hours, days, weeks on launching a product or writing an article and it getting rejected or weakened by errors?

Consider the following examples - would these leaflets have you running down to the voting station to put your cross against the box? Or would you be thinking that if they cannot create an error-free leaflet then maybe they’re not the right person to represent your interests? What does it say about their attention to detail and their ability to see any issues you raise with them through? The Labour leaflet appears to have been rushed through, and a very obvious typo has been missed. The Liberal Democrats appear to have not proofread at all. And, as for the Conservative Party leaflet I am not sure if it’s a case of no proofreader, no copyeditor or just no thought at all?

Proofreading fails can be funny and can certainly draw attention to a business - but not always for the right reasons. These signs made me giggle, but they would also make me question how professional the establishment is.

Sometimes a lack of proofreading can change a brand from 'quirky hipster' to 'irritating brand who worry more about looks than content'. On a recent flight I purchased some crackers. The packaging looked great and the crackers were clearly aimed at the ‘hipster’ market. They were delicious - made with real Cheddar cheese from Cheddar, no less. However, something on the packaging made me certain I will never buy that particular brand again. What got me so cross? A missing apostrophe of course! A sentence that read 'We don’t use cheese powder or cheese flavour because its not the British thing to do'. This really undermined their desire to be thought of as ‘artisan’ or ‘posh’. Without that incorrect ‘its’, I might have let them have the awful pun about 'Grate Britain', and they might even have got away with the cringeworthy phrase ‘drinkie-poos’.

Please don’t leave your customers with a bitter taste in their mouth - contact me and let me help make sure all your copy is beyond reproach.

A final point to note, is that as well as giving a first impression of your business, article, paper, etc., proofreading ensures all your work is consistent. If you have a house style or branding guidelines but are putting out content that doesn’t match up with them then what does that say about the service you are providing - can you be confident of getting a consistent, excellent service? If you are interested in creating a house style, or just want to know more about how useful that can be, please see my previous article here.