March 13, 2014
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In honour of National Proofreading Day, web copywriter Autumn Wiberg discusses the importance of editing, offering some handy tips in the process.
As you’ll remember from my previous post, informative yet readable copy is crucial to the success of any website. But how do you transform your writing from an initial draft to perfectly polished content that’s ready to engage your audience and maximise sales? The answer lies in proofreading.
The web is littered with examples of spelling and grammatical errors that have fallen under the radar due to ineffective proofreading. Just this week, The New York Times corrected a spelling error in a 161-year-old article that referred to 12 Years a Slave memoirist Solomon Northup as ‘Solomon Northrup’ and ‘Solomon Northrop’.
It was only when a 12 Years a Slave fan delved into the archive that this glaringly obvious flaw came to light. But just how costly can mistakes like this be?
It is no secret that visitors to your website judge you on the quality of your content: back in 2011, the BBC reported that a simple spelling error could cost millions in lost sales, as users question the credibility of your site. Not only can this result in monetary loss for retailers, it can alter how the company itself is perceived.
Rereading your work can help identify these errors, but for effective editing, ask somebody else to do it for you. They will be able to pick up on any difficult wording or abrasive phrasing that you have overlooked. It’s also wise to avoid relying purely on spellcheckers.
Proofreading is not just useful for spotting spelling and grammatical mistakes. Lost in the rush of creativity, many writers simply throw down all of their ideas and thoughts, which can lead to a somewhat jumbled argument.
Proofreading allows you to decide which aspects of your writing are essential and which are dispensable. Condensing involves removing unnecessary phrases, sentences and even paragraphs, which many writers are reluctant to do.
Rather than associating the process with loss, think of it as the refinement and bettering of your article. Ralph Waldo Emerson summarises this perfectly in his 1862 journal: “Let the reader find he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every line he can spare.”
It is not unusual for writers to lose sight of why they are writing, exploring different avenues that may not always fit with the brief. With proofreading, you have the space to reflect on what you have written, checking that it’s fit for purpose.
When writing company-orientated material, always make sure your writing is on-brand. Adopting a too jovial or solemn tone could contradict the way you want your business to be perceived. Rolling out a standardised company format, covering tone, writing style and even layout, can unify your brand’s output, which is especially important when dealing with multiple writers.
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