Plenty of people take chances with their business writing. They write it and publish it without too much thought because they just want to get the job done. But what about you? Would you be prepared to have a professional proofreading check?
Your answer could be a resounding “Yes – I have had my work proofread and I’m very glad I did!” But it’s more likely to be one of these:
“No – I’m happy with all my business writing.”
Or… “Yes, but I can’t afford it.”
Actually, for many businesses, the answer seems to be, “No, I’ve never thought about it.” But if you’ve read this far, you’re already ahead of the game.
Scroll on down to find out more about how we all make mistakes; errors can cost you customers; mistakes are a distraction; being correct helps to build trust; proofreading isn’t just about typos; and perhaps most importantly, you can afford it!
1. Everyone makes mistakes
It’s easy to trot out this all-embracing sentence. Yes, we all mistakes – but that’s not a good reason for publishing them.
There’s a big difference between a quick, casual conversation on Facebook or Twitter (where I have no problem with seeing the occasional typo) and your website, blog or promotional materials.
Writing mistakes happen for all sorts of reasons – when we’re tired, in a hurry, wearing the wrong glasses… Every writer, whether professional and experienced, or totally new to writing for wider readership, has those days when their typing fingers behave like bunches of bananas.
But mistakes can also happen because you just don’t know that what you’re typing is wrong.
Also, every writer becomes too close to their writing. You know what you meant to say, so that’s what you see. Checking your own work carefully can still let mistakes slip through. Even if you’re confident with written language, you might be surprised at what a proofreader will pick up.
The biggest mistake is thinking that the first draft is good enough. It never is. This blog, for example, was written and edited several times over several days. If it’s worth writing at all, it’s worth getting it right.
And here’s the main reason for that…
2. Errors can cost you customers
Writing errors are right up there with religion in generating robust online debates. Lots of people are appalled by incorrect language and say they wouldn’t buy from a business with errors on their website.
In contrast, plenty of others think that’s a snobby attitude. They point out that some people can’t help struggling with spelling and grammar, and we’re all human with different skills.
Well, that’s true. There are plenty of things I’m useless at. But here’s the difference – I’m not trying to use those things to promote my business.
In the end, to be blunt, I’m afraid it doesn’t matter what you think. You are using your written words to persuade customers. It’s what your customers think that counts. And you will never know how many people have walked away because they are unhappy with a problem that you didn’t spot.
I’ll be honest – one typo on a website wouldn’t stop me buying. But two or more, and I’d start to have second thoughts. Because…
3. Mistakes are a distraction
The written word is one of the first things that sells your brand and your ideas to people. Its whole purpose is to inform, persuade and lead customers towards buying.
So even if your readers are nice and tolerant, just noticing those little glitches takes their time, energy and thoughts away from the main point. You don’t want that. You want to be remembered for your message, not your mistakes.
If you’re not convinced, there’s more about this in my earlier post Typos: the maths behind why they matter.
At the very least, your business writing should be making life easy for potential customers.
4. Being correct helps to build trust
You want your customers to trust you and feel secure. It may be subconscious, but clear, correct writing helps to create a good impression and builds that trust.
Or, to look at it the other way, mistakes can make customers wonder what other problems there are with your business. If you haven’t checked these details, what else have you skimped on?
Correct writing is a basic courtesy to your readers; it helps make your words easier to understand. For example, punctuation is just a way of guiding readers towards your precise meaning. But it does need thinking about. One comma out of place can change the whole sentence.
Here’s a great (or not-so-great) example from a business report, describing a special promotion:
A comma between ‘child’ and ‘collected’ would clarify that this business is encouraging points accumulation, not child kidnap!
Obvious? I wouldn’t bank on it. In the nicest possible way, never assume that your readers will find anything obvious. Your words and punctuation should leave no doubt. It’s only polite. And treating your customers politely is a big part of building a trusting relationship with them.
5. Proofreading isn’t just about typos
I don’t just check spellings and punctuation. I make sure one end of each sentence matches the other and the words make sense all the way through – that’s grammar.
But one thing that many people don’t even think of is consistency. Sometimes there’s more than one way of being correct. Being consistent makes life easy for your readers and leads them smoothly towards what you want them to do. That works whether your reader is a potential client, your colleague, or Chair of the Board.
I make sure you have consistent names (people, products and services), heading style, bullet points, graphs, captions, paragraph spacing, dates and numbering, pricing style…
Like other mistakes, inconsistency can cause real confusion.
Customers need to know when they’re reading about the same products, and which items or sections have the same level of importance. They won’t think about it… unless there’s a problem. A proofreader’s job is to get rid of those stumbling blocks before a customer is bothered by them.
6. You can afford it
Okay, maybe this isn’t a reason for needing a proofreader. But I bet it’s one of the things you’re thinking about.
Now consider how much you charge for one of your products or services. If using a professional proofreader stops you losing just one customer, it will be worth it. If it gains you one customer by guiding them smoothly towards buying from you, it will be worth it. If proofreading is the hidden element that builds trust for your brand over and over again, it will be worth it.
I’m here to help your business writing impress even the pickiest customers (and there are plenty out there!).
Proofreading costs under £25 for 3,000 words – less than a meal out with a friend, or family cinema tickets. A Small or Medium Enterprise (SME) might have a 5- or 6-page website with 300-500 words per page. I can proofread that for less than the cost of a networking lunch.
You’ll have peace of mind, knowing that your words, out there for all to see, are error-free. In a competitive, uncertain business world, this could be what loads the dice in your favour.
Can you afford NOT to use a proofreader? Are you really prepared to take that chance?
I’m Catherine Legg – an editor and proofreader specialising in non-fiction. I’m particularly keen to help small businesses and those who are new to writing for a wider audience. The mission? Helping people write what they really mean as clearly as possible!
- As well as proofreading, you might like to consider editing. Editing is a broader service to make sure your business writing is not just correct, but clear and suitable for your particular audience. Not sure whether you need proofreading or editing? Find out with my friendly, honest FREE Appraisal.
- Would your business benefit from an editorial ‘retainer’ package, so you can get all your writing checked as you need it, quickly and easily, every time – and save money? Contact me so we can chat about options to suit you.