Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Four eyes good, two eyes bad

Posted on 27th June 2011

So, it's easy for me to keep writing blogs about the virtues of having your work proofread or copy edited but I thought it would be more interesting to get another guest blog writer in this week to give you a slightly different perspective.

Thanks to Catriona Vernal, Publishing Team Leader at Prepress Projects in Perth, where they provide editing, proofreading, typesetting, design and project management services to publishers and organisations across Europe.

Catriona's regular blog for Prepress Projects can be found at: http://www.prepress-projects.co.uk/news or you can follow them on Twitter (@prepressperth) and Facebook.

Communication is vital to good business. Clear, concise, accurate and comprehensible communication conveys quality and instils trust, which, it goes without saying, improves professional reputation.

Good communication is a message conveyed without 'noise', the ideal for every business. Business communication of any sort – be it a website, advert or correspondence – needs to be as clean as possible. Otherwise, errors will distract the reader, who will begin to question and mistrust the message – and their attention drifts towards the ineptitude of the business instead of its message.

Proofreading can help. It's a hidden skill in business, but it's one that is imperative to successful communication and its subsequent results.

Many businesses think that they are capable of their own proofreading, that enlisting the expertise of a professional proofreader wouldn't be worth it – they would be unlikely to find anything they haven't spotted already. They would be wrong.

Clients are very often surprised to find just how much we highlight in what they considered 'clean' text.

For a start, it's important to have an impartial person have a second set of eyes looking over your work. (Not being able to see the wood for the trees comes to mind.) Then, there's the obvious spelling and grammatical errors. But then comes the difference between unskilled proofreading and experienced proofreading: layout, consistency, style, and so much more. It comes down to applying good judgement and a great deal of general knowledge.

Spellcheck, for example, cannot be relied on: it cannot determine context-specific errors. We've seen 'The Old Curio City Shop', 'appear of the realm' and 'in can descent'. The Stationery Office is, in many reports we proofread, an office that just doesn't move.

Proofreading is more difficult than many people think. It's not just a case of checking spelling, punctuation and grammar and correcting genuine errors. Many people think they can proofread, but the truth is it takes years of experience and acquisition of knowledge to become a great proofreader.

Recently, as if to prove the point, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, which maintains quality standards in editing and proofreading, posted a proofreading test on its website for the general public (note from Kate: or see my previous blog). Try it – it might surprise you.

Edited in March 2020 after the Society for Editors and Proofreaders became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

A business needs to make its message stand out for the right reason: that it is a great message. It shouldn't stand out because of its errors. A good proofreader can help make this happen.

Written by Kate Haigh.