Word nerds like me cringe when incorrect spelling or poor grammar appear in business documents. But what is the importance of proofreading to business?
Everyone makes errors and it’s true that we often don’t see our own errors. As G. Rawlinson from Cambridge University famously wrote:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?
When you write a document, email it, post it on your website, or have it printed, you are in fact publishing. Publishing was once the domain of publishing houses who employed editors and proofreaders, but now we can do it all ourselves. Add the influences of the social media, the pressures within business and the issues within the education system and we have a totally new approach to writing and documentation.
Want more articles like this? Check out the business writing section.
Whilst some people may not consider them important, to me proofreading and copyediting are vital. Poor grammar and clumsy, complex sentences can cause misunderstanding. A misplaced apostrophe or incorrect abbreviation can cause frustration and miscommunication.
Here are just a couple of examples of how simple errors can have costly consequences:
- In the 1632 edition of the Wicked Bible, the omission of the word ‘not’ gave new meaning to the seventh commandment ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’ The poor printer was fined £300 ($52,000 in today’s dollars) for his mistake and had his licence suspended.
- Then there’s the Canadian case in which a single comma enabled one party to exit the arrangement in a contract with a single year’s notice, instead of the originally intended five-year term. The cost? A million Canadian dollars.
What’s your view on the importance of proofreading? Does it cost business money? Do badly edited promotional and business materials make you pause before doing business with someone?