February 22, 2012
Three simple tips to mitigate proofreading errors.
By Maureen McCabe
Proofreading errors happen. If there was a mistake, destroy the printed material – it can hurt your professional brand image if you don’t. Three true stories where the recycling bin should have been used:
- A company that provides a high-end service costing several hundred dollars per visit continues to distribute a referral card with an error. Although the owner understands that his brand is being diminished – he doesn’t perceive it as significant. He is not willing to throw them out. As a marketing consultant my role is to educate him and provide recommendations.
- A client asked for advice about one of his suppliers who needed marketing help. When I saw the sticker that the baker uses on her cake boxes – I immediately understood his concern. The sticker was so small that I could read neither the company website nor phone number without a magnifying glass. I am not exaggerating – well, maybe a little. She used the label on a box sold to Groupon customers. (She did not hand out a business card or have a follow-up marketing plan for repeat sales. To learn more read my blog about Groupon.)
- A doctor wrote a letter and printed it on stationery – himself. There were formatting and grammar errors – it was not well-written. When I commented on this mid-way through the mailing to 2,000 patients, he said that he didn’t want to waste the money using more letterhead. (He did have it in stock, could have printed it on the laser printer, and it would not have impacted the schedule.) Was his professional brand hurt? Yes. Did it impact his sales? We’ll never know who didn’t come in the door.
Here are three easy to implement tips for more effective proofreading:
Tip 1: In 1993, I was taught a great tip by a professional proof reader who worked at a large Canadian agency and was paid $150 per hour. Her tip: use a credit card and read the text backwards. (NOTE: I have someone on my team who is a professional and charges a fraction of that price!)
Tip 2: My personal favourite tip is to stand and read it aloud. I think that I’m a politician giving a major address, I even state the punctuation! Or imagine you are a singer and sing every syllable – you’ll be surprised by the number of errors you identify.
Tip 3: Do not send anything to a customer or prospect that will be printed (whether on your printer or by a printing company) that you have not approved and proofread in hard copy form. If you are paying to have the item printed, don’t delegate it to someone – do it yourself.
Learn to destroy outdated brochures and marketing collateral with errors. The cost of reprinting really is relatively inexpensive compared to your brand – your image. You have worked hard to establish and maintain your brand, professionalism, and reputation. Is poor grammar, spelling mistakes, or typos a positive impression? Is this the way you want prospective customers to see your business? Likely not.
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