In 2006, the Italian airline Alitalia lost a whopping $7 million or so when they advertised a business-class flight from Toronto to Cyprus as $39 instead of $3,900. When the mistake was eventually spotted, 2,000 tickets had been sold at that rate and the airline was forced to honour the price.
Errors, for want of a better phrase, are a huge pain in the ‘bud’, because they distract the reader from the salient points you try to raise. As Alitalia experienced they can be costly and lead to embarrassing consequences.
This is why proofreading is an essential component of writing. It ensures the overall quality of a written document by identifying sentence-level errors, grammatical errors, spelling errors, typing errors, redundancies, repetitions and other inconsistencies.
The following are some of the reasons why proofreading is a paramount step in producing a piece of writing that is professional, consistent and error-free.
First write then scrutinise
Writing should be viewed as a process: First you write, then you edit and finally proofread. Editing and proofreading are two different processes that are often misconstrued. Proofreading should take place after editing the final draft. Thus, proofreaders are able to spot mistakes that may have escaped the writing/editing process.
When you are engaged you can’t gauge
All writers know that it is impossible to proofread their own work. Maybe it’s narcissism or maybe it’s how their brains are geared, but writers have a hard time noticing their own errors. This could be due to several reasons.
When a writer is immersed in the task of writing, sentence-level errors may escape his/her notice. Proofreaders on the other hand are trained professionals with the necessary competence to spot such errors.
Proficiency is consistency
The mark of a proficient and a professional writing piece is consistency. Consistency, in capitalisation, punctuation, or even the train of thought will have an overall effect on the quality of your piece. Sometimes writers have to adhere to specific formats and style guides. Proofreading will ensure that your style and flow is consistent with the stylistic requirements.
When you deal with stats you can’t be slack
Proofreading is significant in any form of writing, but when it comes to writing annual reports, proofreading is quintessential. Annual reports consist of a compilation of information that comes from various employees and sections within a company. This information can be at times haphazardly pieced together. Errors in the annual report have the potential to damage the integrity and reputation of a company. A writer engrossed in dealing with hundreds of pages made up of numbers is prone to overlook. A trained proofreader can spot errors in the balance sheet which can avoid catastrophic consequences.
If you are a proofreader, maintain a keen eye and turn on track changes (the good old days of the red pen are long gone). And dear writers, it’s time to exorcise your fear of the red scribbles. After all proofreading could save you a $7.72 million loss or an embarrassing typo in a blog post title.