Why Proofreading Is Vitally Important
Words can be deceiving.
You don’t think about commas or quotes when you speak. You probably couldn’t care less about capitalization, spelling, or punctuation at the end of a spoken sentence. No matter what part of this planet you call home, your native language is so ingrained that simply speaking makes the words, inflections, pauses, and meanings automatically come out.
Then there’s writing.
In some cases, transferring your thoughts to a visual form is mind-bogglingly hard. Oh sure, you can scribble or type out your initial phrases easily. We all do it, and you have to start somewhere, right? But for many, massaging that jumbled mess into something readable and interesting takes effort.
That’s why we humans invented full-time jobs like editor and proofreader.
Don’t let that last sentence scare you. No, you don’t have to hang a proofreader sign over your front door, but you can do justice to your written words — easily — before anyone else sees them.
Sadly, some folks avoid writing altogether, as if they fear their written words will draw blood like Dolores Umbridge’s magic quill.
They may choose the “send-the-first-draft” path of least resistance. Screw making the message understandable, their hapless readers are on their own. If these writers actually need to tweak their words — ooh, watch out — that’s an alien world where badly-spelled, drawn-out mutterings splashed onto a screen isn’t good enough.
Hey, even the best writers need a second look.
“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
- Patricia Fuller
Despite this writing laziness, most of us want to present ourselves well. On some level, at some point, we strive to impress various folks.
- Potential mates
It’s no different in the writing world: good writers struggle to produce understandable text before they publish on a computer screen or physical page. It may not always be perfect, but at least they put in the effort.
You can reach your audience without confusing them or misrepresenting yourself.
Before expecting your readers to buy your product, laugh at your joke, attend your event, answer your question, or enjoy your story, you should focus on the basics.
Many people learned basic grammar and spelling in school, but over time those lessons melted into a bog of forgotten grammar rules, spelling tests, and vague word meanings. Understandable.
With all due respect to your former English teachers, it’s tough trying to memorize all that. Consulting books, web sites, articles, online courses, and other writing aids gets overwhelming when you simply want to review the basics.
If you use one or two trustworthy resources, go for it. However, there’s still an easy task that’ll help you improve your chicken scratch even more. Ready?
I’m talking about a basic once-over. You don’t have to jump into the literary weeds like the professionals.
After you’ve finished your first draft (or before then if you’re getting burnt out), take a break from your piece — how long is up to you. Could be a few hours to a few days. This allows your brain to return to the subject refreshed. You should feel as if you’re reading it for the first time. You might even add some new inspiration!
When you do come back, read your piece out loud, for two major reasons:
- You’ll be able to catch misspellings, typos, and other keyboard-induced anomalies. Your favorite spelling or grammar app won’t catch every mistake.
- You’ll be able to hear if a sentence is too long or if a phrase doesn’t sound right. Run-on sentences are easier to hear out loud than in your head.
If you give yourself time to read over your writing, you’ll be that much closer to having the document you want to send, instead of one filled with mistakes. You’ll also put yourself in a better light, since many people naturally frown upon sloppy writing — instinctive, negative judging happens.
This goes double for businesspeople. If potential customers realize you’ve cut corners (intentionally or not) in your ads, signage, or other documents, how can you expect them to patronize your business with confidence and trust?
If you haven’t proofread and the due date is already here, reschedule if possible. If not, do the best you can. Life is busy, we all know it. You’ll plan better next time. At least get someone you trust (other than yourself) to read it. Getting a fresh pair of eyeballs on it will help catch any mistakes your own eyes glossed over.
If you just can’t stand proofreading, get over it. Proofreading is part of the writing process, and it helps your writing not suck.
It’s worth the extra few minutes. Do yourself and your audience a favor!
Thanks for reading!