Proofreading for everyone

The best proofreader

Here’s a question: Who makes the best proofreader?

It’s never the author—they make the worst proofreaders. They’re just too close to the intention of the writing to judge the writing. The proofreader shouldn’t even be on the project team.

Say a product development team is building a revolutionary new model of Flostenhammer, and one of the team members writes a user instruction manual. If they made an inadvertent factual error, the best person to find it would be another member of the team, because to them the mistake would stand out like a sore thumb. So a team member should check all the instructional writing they produce.

But the writing itself is different. As the writer describes how the octavial valve opens and closes within one cycle of the sub-vent florix, which brilliantly allows the decarpitator piston to block the invertinal port and thus prevent loss of the helium plasmoid, a fellow team member instinctively allows for a slight pause between “florix” and “which brilliantly allows”—but only because they intimately know the process.

Because they understand it, they expect the pause and experience it—even though the comma which should indicate the pause is not there. Intoxicated by the cleverly-conserved helium plasmoid, they cannot see the astonishing absence of the comma. (In the above sample, of course, the comma is there.)

Without the comma, readers will think the sub-vent florix itself causes the decarpitator piston to block the invertinal port, which is impossible.

Is that all?

So is that it—a missing comma? Is that all we’re worried about? Well, no, it’s not, because where the attitude prevails that it’s acceptable to omit a lawful comma, it will without doubt be easy also to find spelling mistakes. After that we will see duplicates of words like “the”, “and”, “to” and “of”, and we’re certain to find missing or misapplied apostrophes and probably even missing hyphens (don’t laugh—it happens all the time).

None of these mistakes usually matters—the material is of little importance, like much of our writing, so a bit of sloppiness doesn’t matter. But how sloppy do you want to be when an article about your flagship product is being published in a leading industry journal where your leading clients and prospects will see it?

How much ambiguity do you think they will tolerate, really? People are remarkably forgiving but there comes a point when they stop making excuses for our mistakes. Then they’re just dismayed. After that you’ll never sign them up.

Can we trust them?

To an observant agent tasked to examine the Flostenhammer Manufacturing Corporation and to report to the client on whether their product will suit the client’s needs for the foreseeable future, these mistakes, including the unjustified absence of the comma, do not go unnoticed and raise a serious question mark over Flostenhammer’s sustainability going forward.

The confidential report to the directors is likely to include the misspellings, duplicated words and scandalous misapplications of apostrophes and to air important misgivings: “If they overlook these writing errors, how else will they fumble? Is this the professional, leading-edge organisation we need to supply this equipment that is so vital to our success?”

Mistakes will occur

Mistakes will occur, but it’s easy to catch them. Get dependable proofreading from FastProof. Have your brochures, advertisements, product leaflets, websites, newsletters, articles, training manuals and proposals proofread before your audience sees them.


– Richard Treadgold
Managing Editor

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