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Does Proofreading Matter?

August 2, 2010

I posted a survey on LinkedIn a little while ago which posed the following question:
How much time do senior people spend correcting mistakes in English when they should be reviewing documents for content?
I also publicised the survey on UKHRD, the excellent forum for people in training and HR roles.

The survey did not produce any interesting information – but the discussion that it sparked off in UKHRD made up for it. Thank you to those people who took the time to post thoughtful answers. This is a digest of the comments with acknowledgement to those people.

First, Resli Costabell made the observation that the message and the way in which it is presented are perhaps not easy to separate from one another:

“…for me, the English forms part of the message I receive. Perhaps it’s similar to physical appearance: if a senior executive sports a frayed collar, shiny suit and visible tattoos, those affect the overall message I receive from that person.”

I take from this that if Resli received an invitation to an event where her name had been spelled wrong or there was an inconsistency in the description of the event from one page to the next, she would have less respect for the organisation as a result. I agree with her strongly, but I still think that it is important for writers to separate content from proofreading when checking what they have written.

Some people are better at proofreading than others, and as Dorothy Nesbitt pointed out, some of us have difficulty ignoring it:
“…when there are mistakes in English in a document, it’s very hard for me to get past them to engage with the content and message.”
So, if the reader of your proposal is like Dorothy, you are unlikely to win work from her without meticulous proofreading.

Conclusion so far:
For some people, errors in English shout out something like “I can’t be bothered to check this and I don’t care what you think of me”. So, if that is not your message, proofreading matters.
More in the next blog: “Why does Proofreading Matter?

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