I once heard a story about a large catalog retailer that published an incorrect toll-free number in several hundred thousand copies of a catalog. As Murphy’s Law would have it, the erroneous number that appeared in the catalog belonged to a very embarrassing entity (think heavy breathing). Needless to say, the error led to 48 hours of scrambling, negotiation, and expense to buy the phone number from the owner, who had quickly realized the potential value of the situation and held the number hostage until his price was met.
That’s an extreme case but there are countless examples of typos and omissions causing easily avoidable embarrassment, confusion, and expense. Having to reprint a run of brochures can pinch any budget.
In addition to minimizing problems, attention to detail in communication demonstrates respect for your audience and a general focus on quality that reflects positively on your organization as a whole.
My Proofreading Checklist Method
My foolproof method for proofreading is to develop a comprehensive checklist and use it to proof every written communication, without exception.
How to Use It
It’s often most helpful to work through the list one element at a time. For instance, make a pass through the whole piece looking only at trademark registrations, copyrights and other intellectual property-related elements. Then take a pass through for addresses, phone numbers and URLs. When you’re looking for a specific type of information it’s easier to look at it objectively and not be influenced by context, which can often make us see what’s supposed to be on the page rather than what is actually on the page. Work through the list one or two elements at a time and you’ll be surprised by how many previously unnoticed issues pop off the page.
Here’s a sample proofreading checklist to get you started. Modify it to suit your needs. Print it, Pin it, wallpaper your desktop with it—keep it handy for the next time you have to proof an important piece of written communication.