Salute Your Shorts! Or, Why You Really Need a Proofreader

You’ve just got your new small-business website up and running, and you’re looking for ways to populate its pages. Of all the available proofreading services probably doesn’t top your list. But maybe it should. Why? Let’s explore that question with a little trip back in time.

Salute your shorts!

We’ve all been there. Summer camp. Twelve years old. Gawky and a little shy. You get up with the sun, eager to face a day of canoeing and wilderness crafts, and — yikes! — there they are: your undies are up the flagpole and everyone is laughing. Or maybe it was the chicken dance. Elbows flapping, legs peddling, “Squawk, squawk, squawk!” You had to do it in front of the whole camp to get your mail, or because you took that second dessert at dinner.

Remember how embarrassing that was? I’ll bet you can still feel your cheeks burning. Well, that’s how you’re going to feel when someone points out the errors in your webpage copy. And worse than the embarrassment is the business you’re going to lose. A website needs professional copy, and nothing screams, “Unprofessional!” like glaring mistakes in the text.

Hire that proofreader

Right now you may be saying, “I’ve already got a writer, and she writes pretty darned well.” And you’re probably correct. But a good writer may need a proofreader the most. Why? Because it’s not the obvious style and grammar errors that trip up a good writer. It’s the little details that go unnoticed; details a good proofreader can spot.

  1. Typos – These are worse than grammar errors, yet they’re often harder to spot. The public can be very forgiving of common language “mistakes,” simply because some of those mistakes are accepted as common usage. Using “their” as a plural pronoun, for example, rather than “his or her.” Typos, however, can be quite jarring. Consider “We offers the best plans available.” Offers? Spell check can’t save you from that. And typos are often harder to spot simply because, when re-reading the text, writers often see what they meant to write rather than what they actually wrote.
  2. Hail the lowly comma, or, how punctuation saves lives – “Let’s eat, Grandpa!” means you love granddad, and you want him to enjoy a good meal. “Let’s eat Grandpa!” means you’re after his estate or stranded on a desert island. Either way, it doesn’t look good for Grandpa. A sharp-eyed proofreader, however, can save the old guy, and save your webpage copy, too.
  3. Misplaced modifiers – These pesky bugaboos slip past the very best writers. If you don’t believe me, scan any newspaper any day of the week. “Dog bites man while riding a bicycle,” is the famous example. What? Dogs can ride bikes? The reason they’re hard to spot is that they can be so subtle, and yet they can completely alter the meaning of a sentence.

Have I convinced you? If not, then answer this question honestly: Did you catch the mistakes in the examples before they were explained or after? If you’re like most people, your brain may have corrected the text for you. And that is exactly why you need a proofreader.

Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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