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Six ways in which a proofreader adds value to your business

Isobel Kent, a specialist proofreader for business, community projects and musicians, highlights some of the ways in which a proofreader can add more to your business than spelling, punctuation and grammar checks.

Proofreaders bring a wealth of skills and experience that can add value to your business as well as saving you time and money. Use them as an extension of your team, regularly or as a sounding board, to help you create a consistent and accurate flow of information both internally and externally.

1. Can’t see the wood for the trees?

How often have you reread something that you wrote some time ago and spotted a mistake?

However accomplished you are at writing, it can be difficult to check your own work. (Even proofreaders find this a challenge.)

Proofreaders approach your content with fresh eyes, unencumbered by your writing process, to ensure that it makes sense and is unambiguous. But they go further than this: they don’t wait for errors to jump out at them – they actively look for them, testing your copy, tables and images for accuracy and consistency and picking up errors that have been inadvertently introduced during the editing process.

2. Right under your nose!

Have you just put the Christmas decorations away, only to find that rogue one that got away?

When we get used to seeing things a certain way, we are less likely to notice them – sometimes the ever-helpful brain even fills in the blanks for us. However, missing words can make a critical difference (touch the wire/don’t touch the wire) and lost letters can cause embarrassment (public/pubic). It is easier than you might imagine to lose a section or phrase.

Proofreaders query anomalies and omissions and make informed suggestions. You may choose not to change anything, but at least it will be a conscious decision.

3. Specialist proofreaders know your field

You wouldn’t ask a shepherd to look after your cattle or a violinist to play the trumpet part – they would probably cope, but they are not experts. It therefore makes sense to employ a proofreader who specialises in business and who will be used to the type of documents that cross your desk; they know the likely pitfalls and the industry standards and understand your timeline. Because of this, the proofreader can add value to your business efficiency while respecting your values.

4. Understanding your reader: style and voice

Key to all your business content is knowing your intended reader and industry expectations. Businesses need to adopt appropriate writing styles for each communication channel: your privacy policy must be compliant, explicit and formal, whereas your blog can be conversational, perhaps with images, and suitable for sharing on social media. There are also distinct tones for internal communication (e.g. for change management) and sales material.

The business proofreader registers your voice and checks that it is consistently applied for a smooth reading experience to maximise its impact.

5. The Style Sheet and your brand

The ‘Style Sheet’ is a list of conventions that you apply across your written content. These range from the form of English that you adopt to whether you like to capitalise important nouns to add emphasis. They can even be simple things like whether you hyphenate a particular word or how you like to punctuate.

You may already have a House Style or Style Sheet, which you have developed in line with your business brand. Then again, you may not have seen the need for one until you started to consider fonts and colour in constructing your website or establishing your social media presence.

A proofreader can produce a Style Sheet for you while working on your material, based on your usual practice. This gives you a standard for future copy or a starting point from which to consider your preferences, in keeping with your brand and readership. Without this, your business can look unprofessional, suggesting a lack of attention to detail and resulting in a loss of trust. The Style Sheet thereby ensures consistency and brand cohesion across business content, whether that is a policy, tender, website or newsletter. It also saves time and expense on your next proofreading requirement.

6. Equality, diversity and inclusion

This is a fast-evolving area of language and can feel daunting. As the last port of call before publication, a proofreader will highlight language that should be recast more appropriately. It is easy to get caught out here, by using ‘he’ instead of a gender-neutral pronoun or repeating well-used phrases without thinking about their origin or impact. There are even subtle ways that a writer may inadvertently reveal a gender bias.

Proofreaders are up to date with the latest changes in language and will identify errors of judgement, supporting you with more acceptable suggestions. There are grammatical rules and then there are rules around people – proofreaders can help you to navigate these without losing sense or face.

Ultimately, business proofreaders are well placed to support your business and can be a valuable part of your virtual team as you confront the last hurdle before publication.

Isobel Kent is an Oxfordshire-based proofreader and school governors’ clerk and specialises in proofreading for business, community projects and musicians. She trained with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and the Publishing Training Centre and holds a BA (Hons) in Music from the University of York.

Previously, she was a school librarian, a paralegal and a personal assistant to directors in a blue-chip company, a pub company and a global DC-power company. She also studied with renowned violinist and co-founder of the Purcell School, Rosemary Rapaport.

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