We've all experienced that moment of horror when our manager spots a typo in a report we've laboured over for hours, if not days. You feel appalled and mystified that you could have missed such an obvious error.
One reason is that as the writer of the report, proposal or email, you are very familiar with the content – you read what you expect to see on the page, not necessarily what’s actually there. Perhaps you've prepared so many drafts of the report you're sick of reading it; rather than read it slowly word for word, you skim over it just to get it finished. You may be under pressure to get your emails out and have no time to do more than a cursory check (if that). Or perhaps you feel you have more important things to do than obsess over the finer details of the written word.
A minor error here or there, such as omitting a full stop at the end of a bulleted list, is not going to cause major problems. But multiple typos, or using a word in the wrong context, could cost you money and loss of reputation (not to mention personal embarrassment). Imagine the consequences of offering a complimentary service or product (a free service or product) when you really mean to offer a complementary one (a service or product that goes with another).
Rigorous checking may seem like a waste of time. But failing to check your emails or reports, or only checking them superficially, is setting yourself up for potential disaster.
- Financial cost. The publication may need to be reprinted costing money in ink, power and printer’s fees. This excess consumption will also have an impact on the environment.
- Loss of productivity. An error may cause your reader to misunderstand your meaning and perform a task the wrong way, phone a wrong number or go to an incorrect address.
- Breakdown in communication. If there are too many errors, your reader will become distracted by the errors and stop focusing on the importance of your message.
- Loss of confidence. Your reader may conclude that you are sloppy in all aspects of your work, losing confidence in you as a person and your organisation as a whole.
- Damage to reputation. Grammatical errors not only cause misunderstanding, they can make you appear poorly educated, costing your organisation potential new clients or precluding you from promotion.
Spell and grammar checking software do help enormously. But it’s not enough. To avoid costly and embarrassing errors, it’s well worthwhile contracting an external professional proofreader. For a relatively small outlay, you will have peace of mind that your communications are polished, professional and free from grammatical and typographical errors.