You may not have been an English major, and you may find the task of revising your own written work to be frankly tedious—but proofreading is a skill that no executive, entrepreneur, or professional person should be without. Just as it is important to have some basic skills in writing and in accounting, so too is it imperative for business owners to have a command of some proofreading basics.
There will be times, of course, when you must write something—your website content, a Facebook post, a company press release, or a blog entry, for instance. Even if you outsource all of the above to a professional writing company like Grammar Chic, Inc., you’ll at least need to know how to compose your own professional e-mails. And for any of these writing projects, any typos or stylistic errors you make are ultimately going to undermine your authority and distract from the message you’re trying to convey. In a very real way, a grammatical flub-up can ruin a social media post or a marketing message.
This is not to say that you have to suddenly develop an encyclopedic knowledge of English grammar, but you should at least get into the habit of re-reading everything you write, scouring it for any words, letters, or punctuation marks that need to be corrected.
What exactly should you be looking for? The list is long, but five basic categories are mentioned here:
- Checking your spelling is always important—but relying on SpellCheck is insufficient. SpellCheck won’t always catch homophones, which are words that differ in meaning and spelling, but are pronounced the same way. For example, their, they’re, and there all sound alike, and as you type it can be easy to enter one when you mean one of the others—but this is an exceedingly amateurish mistake that makes it plain your work hasn’t been re-read or edited at all. Keep an eye out for these as you revise your work!
- Run-on sentences. There are right ways and wrong ways to splice two sentences/clauses together. The right way is to use a conjunction like and or another way is to use a semicolon or comma. The wrong way is to simply jam them together without a transition of any kind. If you’re ever unsure, you might just err on the side of simplicity—ending one idea with a period, and then including the next idea as its own sentence. (So long as each sentence has a subject and a verb, you’re set!)
- Formality. Depending on what you’re writing, contractions (like can’t, won’t, should’ve, or, well, you’re) may or may not be appropriate. They’re fine in a blog entry or on Facebook, but generally frowned upon in press releases or in more formal documents. As you read through your writing, be aware of whether you’ve used informalities, and whether or not it’s appropriate to do so. (Addressing the reader directly—you—is another informality to watch for.)
- Subject/verb agreement. This one should be pretty easy to identify as you read back through your work; when the subject and verb do not agree, in number or in tense, it just sounds funny. Some examples: You always want to say the customer is first, not the customer are first and not the customers is first.
- Finally, try to be aware of words that you may be overusing. You may really think your business is agile, but using the word agile in every sentence will make your writing tedious. Look up synonyms!
Of course, you may also wish to have a professional editing company you can call—and Grammar Chic is always available! Contact us today: Visit www.grammarchic.net, or call 803-831-7444.
Amanda E. Clark founded Grammar Chic in 2008. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and holds degrees in Journalism, Political Science, and English. She launched Grammar Chic after freelancing for several years while simultaneously leading marketing and advertising initiatives for several Fortune 500 companies.