Many years ago I set up a Young Composers Forum, an organization which aimed to help young composers, like myself at a time to get their works performed. A long story short, in need of some help we send a letter to the Dean of the Academy of Music. It was a typical business correspondence asking for advice, patronage and some support too. I wrote it and send it off, without proofreading. Turned out I misspelled the Deans name at the top of the letter.
A result? We lost a valuable ally and potential sponsor.
Typos and errors in copy are not something that many small business owners would consider a serious mistake. Ufortunately they still can hurt your reputation in the eyes of your prospect or a client.
Let’s face it, clients build an image of you based on every piece of contact with you they have and seeing errors in that quote you sent them or on your price board in your shop, menu in the cafe and so on certainly doesn’t help.
Contrary to a common belief however, proofreading your documents is not something that will take a lot of time. You can do it quickly before sending anything to your client and below are some of my favorite tricks for proofreading your business correspondence.
- If possible, don’t edit on the same day you wrote the document. If you can, wait at least one day before you do so. This will give you the necessary distance to catch many mistakes. In business world however, most of us don’t have that day to wait therefore:
- Don’t proofread on the computer, print out a copy of your document and check the printed version. A human eye reads a printed document more carefully and is able to catch more errors.
- If you can’t print it out for some reason, use a distinct typeface and make the text bigger before going through your document. It also makes it easier to spot any errors.
- Another good trick used by proofreaders when they have to edit very quickly is to read a text in a mirror. It will place your text in a new context and you will be able to spot many mistakes you would missed otherwise.
- If you use a printed out version, put a ruler under each line as you read the text. This will stop you from jumping ahead to the next line.
- Question all the facts. Make sure that all dates, prices, dimensions, delivery dates and all other facts you include in your letter are correct. Question them and you will be able to spot many errors there too.
- Start at the end. This is another trick used by professional proofreaders. They read the text at least once backwards. They begin at the end and work back through the document, line by line.
- Look out for your own common mistakes. We all have certain words we often misspell, mine is business which I tend to spell “busienss”. Check your text for them.
- Read your copy aloud at least once. You will catch a lot more errors this way too.
- Be careful with the obvious stuff. We never tend to double check names for instance as they are obvious but as you can see from my example above, they can lead to disasters too.
Before I go…I was featured last week in the “Top 10 Up and Coming Male Bloggers” listing by John Paul Aguiar from Money Dummy Blog and I wanted to say thanks to John for including me. It’s a great feeling to be patted on a back I have to tell ya…
Go and check out John’s blog, it is packed with resources for online marketing and promotion. Well worth a read!
photo by Flickr user lamanyana / creative commons