Sometimes, it seems that proofreading has gone the way of the typewriter, adding machine, and rotary telephone – curiosities once regularly used in business but now discarded and forgotten. But the world is still full of stakeholders (prospective donors, investors, customers, and market influencers) who will notice and care if your work is rife with errors. Why give them the chance to draw the wrong conclusions?
There’ll Always Be Someone Out There Who Expects Perfection
You may find it surprising to learn that one of the top three executives at a $200 million software company taught me how to align text in PowerPoint.
Back in the mid-90s, this same man had run the high tech strategic supply chain management practice for one of the world’s largest management consulting firms. In this role, he consulted regularly with senior-level executives of Fortune 500 tech firms around the world. At the time, PowerPoint was often the only tool he and his colleagues had available to package their “product” (that is, their intellectual property) for their customers.
Perhaps that explains his insistence on nothing less than perfection when it came to PowerPoint slides.
If this executive caught a simple typographical error on one of your slides, he was likely to dismiss your entire presentation on the spot. His logic went something like this: if you were sloppy enough in your work to have missed a typo, then the entire analytical framework, financial analysis, and strategic recommendations underpinning your presentation must all be considered suspect.
The Consequences of Shoddy Workmanship Can Be Painful
This example may seem a bit extreme, but it points up the importance of paying attention to detail.
Now, admittedly, not everyone you present to is going to notice, or care, if there’s a typographical or data error in your presentation. Not all of your followers on social media will notice, or care, if you frequently post messages that are full of typos and broken links. And not everyone who reads your blog will care if you regularly misquote sources, misrepresent facts, and misspell industry terms.
But some will care. Enough to dismiss you as a potential partner, vendor, employee, or content expert? Maybe, maybe not. But do you really want to take that chance?
So Take a Few Moments to Up Your Game As a Proofreader
Here are some suggestions to help you execute flawlessly:
- Run spell check (but remember, that won’t catch any correctly spelled words used in the wrong context, such as “through” mistakenly typed in place of “threw”).
- To catch typos, print out your material and proof the text, line by line, with a solid, opaque ruler (helps your eyes to focus more carefully on each word – an old proofreader’s trick).
- If you’re not sure of your skills in spelling or grammar, enlist the help of someone who is to help you check your work – especially when the stakes are high.
Share Your Thoughts
Is there a technique you’ve developed to help you proofread better? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social media.
About the photo: Photo of old typewriter and adding machine by Sarah Saunders. All rights reserved.
Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or clearly spam.