The importance of proofreading
As anyone who runs their own business will know, it is very difficult to take the plunge and launch your brand out into the world, for everyone to judge. You've worked tirelessly, you've doubted yourself, you've created a website that you love, you've done your research and then the scary moment comes when there's nothing else for it but to press the big 'GO' button.
Launching your own business can be scary...
Throughout my career, I've worked with lots of businesses to help them get ready for the big 'GO' button pressing moment. I've supported them through the process and offered my expertise and encouragement along the way. Did I lay awake at night worrying about how their logo looked? No. Did I check the website links a million times? No - because I'm confident in my abilities to do a great job for them. However, since starting up Brass Bee, it's been a very different story and for the first time, I've fully stepped into their shoes. It's daunting and no matter how experienced you are, you doubt yourself when it's your own business that you've created from scratch.
Sometimes you've got to fake it till you make it, as they say - I pushed aside the little voice in my head that was holding me back and launched my brand. My carefully designed business cards came through the post. I shared them out to my family and friends to get their opinions and they loved them. After all that, you can imagine my horror when I realised I had put the wrong email address on my own business cards.
The smallest mistakes can be the worst...
Yep - it was a small and easy mistake to make, but I was dismayed. I'm known for being a perfectionist. How could I go and help other businesses when I missed such a simple little typo? There was my confidence crisis, right there.
Ultimately I believe that you should always try and learn from your mistakes, and I had let my lack of confidence get in the way of giving everything a thorough proofread. Yes, I had checked everything, but proper proofreading is a time consuming and sometimes tedious task and while I had to forgive myself for my own little mistake, I realised how easy it is to put aside the more tedious jobs when you're busy creating an exciting new brand. I began talking to other people in my field and realised that despite the best intentions, typos happen to everyone when a document or a business card isn't given a thorough proofing.
How to proofread like a pro
When proofreading your social media posts, website copy and any other marketing materials, there is a great process you can follow to make sure you eliminate any pesky errors.
1. Read the document first just to check the flow and the grammar.
Sorry folks, you're going to have to read the document a couple of times - our eyes and brains can be very lazy and won't always spot errors if you're reading at your usual pace. So the first time around, simply focus on how the writing flows and check if it makes sense. Keep tabs on the tense that you've written in and don't bounce between past and present.
2. Read the document again to specifically check the spelling.
This is where the graft comes in. You're happy with how everything sounds, so for this second reading, you just have to focus on looking at each individual w o r d... It takes a while, but when you switch your brain round to simply look at how the words are spelt you will be amazed at how many errors you find. Don't forget to look up the names of people, towns and products that you're not sure of.
3. Read the document to check punctuation, font and layout.
This final read should go through quite quickly, and this time around you want to focus on making sure that everything is consistent. If you have bullet points, have you used full stops at the end of each one? Have you put Capital letters on all the titles and names? Are all the book titles in italics, are the references right? Again, you're switching your brain to look for something different.
4. For an online and digital document, check that all the links work.
This is an essential one for anything going online. If you're updating a newsletter, have you updated all the image links to your latest blog posts or do they still have last months hyperlinks on there? Do all the images have the right URLs? Are all your social media icons linking back to the right pages? You don't want to put all that hard work into creating a brilliant blog post that will draw traffic to your website, only for the link to be broken.
5. Finally, check any numbers.
If you're sending an invoice, check all the dates and numbers. Get someone else with a fresh pair of eyes to look over website data. Bribe them with cups of tea if they seem reluctant. Make sure the numbers in the chapters are in order and line up with the page numbers.
And finally, make sure your contact details are right - including your email address on your business card!
Some additional tips:
If you have time, proofread with a fresh pair of eyes. You'll get the best results if you come away from the document for a day or two - you're more likely to read it as if from scratch and I guarantee you'll see things that you'll want to change.
If you're struggling to concentrate and you've been staring blankly at your screen for ages, then change the font and the size of the font. Don't ask me why, but this always makes your eyes see the text in a different way.
If in doubt, ask someone else to give everything a good old proofing and consider downloading software that will help. Grammarly is an excellent free website that will have your back for you. Sign up and download it onto your computer, and it will check everything for you, even your social media posts (this is a godsend for Twitter which still doesn't have a spell checker OR an edit post option).