“Ten people reviewed that flier at least two times. Twenty read-throughs. But we didn’t catch it. Ten people, and no one saw it.”
My eyes widened.
“The same ten people? People who helped write it? And knew what it was supposed to say?”
Derailed by a ‘little thing.’
It may surprise you to discover I’m not here to wave my hand in the air, jump up and down, and say, “Here I am! Pick me! I’ll proof your work!”
While that might be great, we may not be the best ‘fit’ for one another project-wise. I am here to say, “Please hire a proofer to find those little things everyone else missed. They’ll save you time, money, and heartache in the long run.”
“You have my attention.”
“OK, Kathie, you have my attention. Why do so many things get past our people?”
Come with me on a little journey.
We’re on a train, heading across the United States. In the middle of nowhere, we come to a stop. Conductor: “I’m sorry, this section of track isn’t completely finished. We’re waiting for a repair crew.”
We look out the window. “But … we can see the track. It’s fine.”
“Ah, but look closer. See those crossties and spikes stacked over there? They weren’t installed and the original team didn’t catch it. We’ll be underway as soon as the inspector certifies the repairs.”
Eventually, the train starts again, but it’s creeping along. The inspector is watching, inch-by-inch, making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.
In the writing world, the editor does the heavy lifting of making sure all the ‘pieces for the track’ are where they’re supposed to be in our written materials.
The proofer is the inspector, creeping over every inch of track, as it were, to ensure it all blends together like it’s supposed to.
When we’re responsible for written resources, a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ can save our day. As the railroad company discovered, we’ll rarely find our own mistakes. Bring in someone new to check it out.
It doesn’t take much …
… to derail a reputation. Once people lose confidence in our abilities, everything is tainted.
At the end of our story’s train journey, the first thing the passengers told their friends was … what? The scenery was beautiful? The food in the dining car was surprisingly good?
No. Their first words were, “You are not going to believe ….”
Let’s make certain no one says that about us unless the sentence ends with praise. We want them to have no complaints about the written materials we provide. Bad news travels f-a-s-t, and that genie rarely returns to its bottle.
What was the issue with the flier at the beginning of this post?
“When is your event?” I asked. “I don’t see the date. Or the time.”
I discovered the error in – count ’em – 5,000 full-color fliers printed on top quality card stock. Oops. A couple hundred dollars for rework, instead of a minimal proofreading fee.
Be careful out there.
Your Takeaway: Proofreading is an integral part of our written words’ success. I highly recommend a final pass beyond editing. A ‘fresh pair of eyes’ finds errors before the judgmental public discovers them.
Final Note: Please do not ask one person to edit and proofread the same piece. My tag phrase – “Never proof your own work!” – is important. It applies to editors and proofers, too.