update, writing

Why Proofreading?

As we’re now deeply in the new year and I’ve settled into a bit of a new routine, I figured it was time to start promoting my business again. You know, refilling the coffers post-Christmas, keeping myself out of trouble, making sure I keep my skills honed.

The year has gotten off to a good start, contract wise, but I still have a lot of room in my schedule for projects and manuscripts that need a fine-tooth combing.

And I don’t mean just novels.

One of the reasons I decided to offer proofreading services was my time at my dayjob. Part of my job was to distribute incoming correspondence to the appropriate teams, which meant reading them to see where they best fit.

Some of the letters were from private citizens, but most came from organizations. Not-for-profits, unions, funding programs, etc. Organizations and businesses that wanted to be taken seriously with their requests.

But often their letters were riddled with typographical, formatting, or grammatical errors.

Heck, I’ll go out to a restaurant, and the menu will be full of errors. We went to a mid-scale place one day, and they had spelled blackened salmon differently THREE TIMES (blackened salmon, backend salmon, blackend salmon), to the point where at first I thought it was actually three different varieties of salmon.

And yes, I am one of the people who questions the quality of the service and food if no one performs a quality assurance check on one of the first real impressions a customer will make of their establishment (yes, I am one of those people. No, I don’t point it out to the servers. It’s not their fault and they’ve probably already been told fifteen times).

From what I can tell, there are many reasons for these oversights:

  1. Most likely, the errors were just missed. It happens. Even with a proofreader, the chances of having a 100% perfectly error-free document is small, especially with longer projects. The human brain is fascinating and autocorrects what it sees so that everything makes sense. But having someone unconnected with the creation of your project will mean a cleaner end result.
  2. Hopefully not the case, but they might not care. Their mentality might be: Get the product out and move on to the next. The content will still be clear and the reader will figure it out for themselves. Sure… but impressions do matter. If you’re giving a presentation, do you make sure your outfit is tidy or go on in with a rumpled shirt and no brushed teeth after an onion- and garlic-filled sandwich?
  3. They brought someone in who was too familiar with the project. Again, the brain autocorrects. If you know the subject matter too well, you’ll know what was intended and miss the errors. There are ways to help with this: change the font of what you’re editing or read it on a different medium (tablet vs. computer; print off a paper copy). Just the change in appearance can help you see things you might have missed.
  4. They used someone they had on hand who doesn’t have the background/experience to know what they’re looking for. Typos can be caught easily enough, but grammar can be tricky. Sometimes it takes someone with a passion for knowing how semi-colons work to ensure they’re in the right spot.
  5. This last one is what I suspect to be a huge reason for official/important documents going out with errors: proofreading is often lumped in with administrative assistant tasks, and admins are expected to a) know how to do the work; and b) get the work done between all their other tasks. I’ve seen this quite a bit as I’ve looked for new contracts, and I find it staggering. For one thing, it’s a whole different way of thinking between editing a document and booking travel arrangements (nothing but respect for folks who are able to do the latter; just the thought of doing it makes my palms sweat. Give me commas any day). For another thing, how on earth do you expect someone to be able to hunker down and really focus on the nitty-gritty of a document while being interrupted to book travel arrangements? You can do it, sure, but the quality won’t be there.

So that is where I am offering to come in. Even if you’re not an author, even if you’re a student, an entrepreneur, applying for grants, getting ready to submit a thesis, a research paper, an article, a really important blog post, it can absolutely be worth it to fork out a few bucks to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, making the best first impression. So if you’re interested in getting a quote, feel free to send me a message!

That being said, I also intend to continue doing research on how best to teach/share some of the rules and techniques I use to better help you do some of this on your own. Do you have any questions/any particular issues that pop up that you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts?

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