Put yourself in your readers’ shoes: how would you feel if you had received a document or publication from someone that contained numerous errors and inconsistencies? Even worse if you had paid good money for it. You would might possibly feel insulted that they could not be bothered to ensure their output was readable and free of errors. Consider some of the following media you might produce.
Readers rightly expect to be presented with an easily readable piece of text that is informative, entertaining, and maybe sometimes humorous. They do not expect to have to pick their way through long rambling sentences with numerous errors in order to decipher the intended message. If you want them to follow you, perhaps even ‘like’ and recommend you, they will expect some effort from you in return. If you are not sure of some of the facts, research them on the internet, and maybe even provide links to the articles in your blog so your reader can follow up, read, or research further. After all there is a huge volume of information out there on the internet.
Readers expect the books they buy to be accurate and consistent. School textbook resources for teachers and lecturers should be accurate, and contain matching answers or answering guidance for the questions posed to students in the main textbook.
There is a growing trend towards authors self-publishing fiction titles that can be downloaded from suppliers such as Amazon. Readers would rightly expect that chapters are in the correct order and that the timeline of the story is credible. Characters’ names and characteristics and the spelling of location names should be consistent. One work of fiction I proofread once had three different spellings for the name of a town. Attention should also be paid to continuity: in the same book in one scene a character started an amorous scene wearing trousers, but these changed to jeans as the action started and these were removed.
Your message to a prospective client would get lost if the literature, such as a leaflet or brochure, does not contain the content that the reader is looking for, such as details, specifications, and purposes of the product, and general customer satisfaction with the product. Customer research and testimonials are always useful to have. If you have them then use them – not in a boastful but a confident way.
Reports and proposals
These should give facts in logically ordered sections with supporting data in figures, tables, or appendices. One useful piece of information I learned once is that the report should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Say what you are going to say, then say it, and finally summarize what you have said. It might sound simplistic but it is good guidance.
Summary: Why proofread?
A well-produced and error-free document is quicker to read, easier to understand, is interesting, and tells the reader what they want to know. If it does not fulfil these functions why should your reader bother to read it?
Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.