DIY Proofreading vs. Professional Proofreading

Have you heard of the Grocer’s Apostrophe? The term was coined for the errant apostrophes that regularly appeared in handwritten greengrocer signs. Potatoes would become potatoe’s, tomato, tomatoe’s and so on.

Unfortunately, the Grocer’s Apostrophe isn’t limited to greengrocers; it’s an epidemic amongst retailers of all kind. You can see hundreds of examples in the Flickr group dedicated solely to sightings.

Reactions to the Grocer’s Apostrophe shows that grammar is still valued despite the influence of text speak and internet slang in recent years. Bad grammar is openly mocked and so are the businesses and individuals who fall foul of it (as evidenced by the Flickr group).

The Importance of Proofreading

Everything you write, whether it’s a friendly email, an entertaining article or a lengthy business report, is communicating a message or idea. Effective prose flows, allowing your message to be effortlessly absorbed by the reader. But mistakes in the text are jarring, spelling errors distract the reader and punctuation misuse can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Mistakes are loud; they leap from the page causing confusion, irritation, disinterest and offence.

Proofreading your writing is a foolproof way to keep your message intact and your readers on track, but should you do it yourself or call in a professional?

DIY or DI Don’t?

Proofreading is a skill altogether different from writing. You need an eagle eye, excellent grammatical knowledge (how else will you spot the mistakes?) and the patience of a saint.

If you possess the skills required there’s no reason why you shouldn’t proofread your own work. It is important however to detach yourself from the text first. Take a break, of several days if you can, and come back to it with fresh eyes. Remember that as the writer you are deeply connected to your work so you may see what you want or expect to see rather than what’s actually there.

If the text is very important or you are at all concerned about your proofreading ability, you will benefit from hiring a professional. It is their job to meticulously analyse every word, and they will do so several times until the text is perfect. If you want to avoid making it into the Bad Grammar Hall of Fame, enlist the help of a professional proofreading service.

Choosing a Proofreader

After hours of hard work, the last thing you want to do is send your writing to a sub-standard proofreader. Naturally, you want to find the best person for the job, so allow yourself plenty of time and be prepared to do some research.

Start by searching for professional proofreaders in your area. Sometimes it’s reassuring to meet in person and discuss the project before committing to work together. Ask colleagues and friends for recommendations and look at reviews online. Contact several agencies and/or individuals and ask about their experience, qualifications, specialist areas and previous clients. Most importantly, don’t make a rush decision or simply settle for the lowest bidder, because it could cost you much more than you bargained for.

About the Author

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