To Err is Human; To Proofread, Divine

To Err is Human; To Proofread, Divine image proofreadTo Err is Human; To Proofread, Divine

I’ve had a lifetime of being the nerd who would correct spelling on a menu, circle typos in books, and send emails to the Webmaster on sites where I found errors.  No, I haven’t won a lot of friends that way, and yet I am still compelled to do these things.  In my decades of reading pretty much everything that I could get my hands on, I’ve seen the concern for correct spelling and grammar go the way of the rotary dial telephone.  In marketing, however, you would be hard-pressed to find a CEO who would be okay with a press release that has the firm name spelled incorrectly, or a website rife with errors.  Why?  No one wants to stand out for the wrong reasons.

What Typos and Other Errors Really Say About Your Company

If your friend sends you an email with a couple misspellings, you may chuckle and smugly think to yourself that your friend is in a hurry or isn’t as intelligent as you are.  But say that this email is from a vendor your business frequents, or that you’re considering.  Now you wonder why they’re in such a hurry with their communications with you that they are okay with making errors, or worse you think that perhaps they aren’t very intelligent – yet they are handling this important need for your business.  For professional services firms, accuracy and attention to detail are essential to your successful business – you cannot risk a prospect assuming you do not possess these skills due to errors made during your first impression.

Just as in the news, it’s the shocking or sad stories that get the public’s attention – not the “everyday person makes good” story.  You will be noticed for your errors, and that is not the first impression you want to make.  I believe that’s one of the reasons we say, “No news is good news.”  Finding that first error is akin to pulling at a thread on your sweater – it may seem like a little stray piece at first, but before you know it you keep pulling and the entire sweater unravels.  The initial error was a sign of worse things to come.

Preventing Most Errors and Gracefully Handling the Rest

Writing this type of post is terrifying to me, knowing that someone (with qualities similar to my own) may read this for the sole purpose of finding my errors and pointing them out to the world.  But that is rather the point – we can and should take care with our writing, proofreading it and having others proofread where possible, yet we still may err.  I have paid from my own pocket to correct printing errors I missed that the client initially made and missed – because I was to be their insurance policy.  The most important step to take, I have discovered firsthand, is to admit to the mistake as soon as it is discovered and be prepared with a solution to the problem.  There is a temptation to fix something on the sly, or hope that no one else sees it, but that sets up a dangerous precedent.  Most clients know and accept that mistakes are made; most clients will not accept being lied to or deceived in any way.

Practical and Personal Reasons to Get it Right the First Time

In the world of online content, you’ll want searches for relevant products and services to bring up your firm, not just the other businesses who spelled them correctly.  You should stand out on the basis of your market differentiators, not your errors.  And in the world of online dating, you’ll want to spell your prospective date’s name correctly, and more importantly not be so careless that you type someone else’s name altogether.  Because believe me, your prospective client or prospective date will notice.

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