Because being able to use words properly is pretty much the whole point of my job, I’m naturally infuriated when I see typos out and about in the everyday world. Because it seems to me that almost all of these misspellings and grammar errors could probably have been avoided if the culprits had just got a proofreader — or at the very least a second pair of eyes — involved along the way.
Here’s five reasons why having a proofreading system in place is especially important for agencies (and, yes, obviously I’m pretty nervous that there are some typos lurking in this blog).
1. Technology will only take you so far
Can you remember the last time you looked up a word in an actual, physical dictionary? Probably not, because really we’ve no need to — our computers and smartphones place all the reference books we could ever need a couple of clicks away.
Spellcheck is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately it won’t pick up errors in consistency or word use. And sometimes it’ll point you in the wrong direction entirely; for example, by suggesting an Americanised spelling. Consider also the dreaded Thesaurus function, which some use to try and ‘clever up’ their work a little without really thinking about whether the new word they’ve selected really works.
The fact is that relying on Word to get it right, blindly clicking until all those wriggly red lines disappear could well leave you with a document that’s nonsensical; a human with a good grasp on English makes a much more reliable proofreader.
2. Haste inevitably leads to mistakes (especially when it comes to pitches)
Agency teams are often up against tight deadlines to get the job finished. This is especially true when it comes to pulling together pitch documents, which often come with very limited time frames — and a fair bit of pressure — attached.
But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that glaring errors in consistency (or, heaven forbid, a noticeable amount of spelling mistakes) in your ‘new business’ documentation could mean the difference between getting yourself a new client and getting yourself a commiseratory pint.
An agency’s commitment to quality should be represented in everything they do, from the finished work they produce to the presentations they put before clients. Making sure you leave an hour or two of wiggle room aside to get a qualified someone to proofread the finished article lets you concentrate on properly representing your specialism without worrying too much about every last word.
3. Because a second opinion is always valuable
Although I’m a ‘content writer’, I’m certainly not the only one around here who contributes to getting the content I pull together right.
At Code, we place a huge amount of emphasis on collaboration, and as such I frequently work alongside the UX, Strategy, Search & Media and Design teams; although everyone obviously has their own area of expertise, we work together to arrive at the best possible solutions.
Working in an isolated bubble doesn’t serve agency staff well. I like the fact my colleagues can let me know what they think about the copy I’ve drafted — and also perhaps pick up any errors I’ve made too.
4. If you’re not corrected, you’ll keep making the same errors again and again
Nobody (except maybe Stephen Fry) knows all the words; we all pick up the quirks of language as we go.
That means sometimes we get it wrong, either because we’re misinformed or just because we’re convinced that we know what we’re talking about; if you’ve no reason to think that the way you’re using or spelling a certain word isn’t right, then of course you’ll just keep on doing the same thing.
Being told that you’re wrong about something isn’t especially fun — but surely it’s better than making avoidable mistakes forever more?
5. Typos can be costly as well as embarrassing
Typos in printed materials can be very inconvenient and expensive to rectify. Back in 2006, DDS Media had to destroy 10,000 copies of a ‘learn to spell’ DVD after they misspelt host Eamonn Holmes’ name on the front cover; in 2012, the New York City Transportation Authority had to recall 160,000 maps and posters that showed an incorrect ticket price.
This isn’t so much the case when it comes to online copy, of course; often, a few seconds spent fiddling around in the CMS can get things back on track.
What you can’t measure, though, is how much damage your mistake will have done to your client’s reputation in the meantime — or how it can negatively affect your relationship with them in the long-term.