By Thomas Clifford published May 16, 2011

5 Reasons Why EVERY Content Marketer Needs a Professional Proofreader

If you’re publishing content these days, you’re, um, a publisher.

And publishers use professional proofreaders to review and correct copy. So as a publisher, you could benefit from having a professional proofreader.

For instance, you may need help editing for logic, structure or flow.

Or your copy may need simple proofreading for grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes.

Pay professional proofreaders? No, thank you

Hey, if you’re like me, you probably can’t imagine paying someone to proofread your copy. Why pay a professional proofreader when someone else will do it for free?

Perhaps you have a colleague who proofs your content.

Or maybe your computer is configured to check grammar.

Or possibly a friend gives your copy a look-see over lunch.

Things are good enough, thank you

Sure, sometimes free is good enough. But when you want to get past “good enough” (and your friends want you to stop bugging them!), then it’s time to hire a professional proofreader.

Professional proofreaders polish your copy, leaving your readers with a memorable and lasting impression of your work.

Why bother paying a professional proofreader?

Here are five overlooked benefits professional proofreading can bring to your content:

  1. Frees you from worrying about being correct (and boosts your creativity)
  2. Ensures that readers will understand your copy
  3. Boosts your inner (and outer) confidence
  4. Frees you from depending on your network
  5. Increases your knowledge about copywriting

Let’s explore each of these reasons a little more.

1) Frees you from worrying about being correct (and boosts your creativity)

Your internal editor tries to prevent mistakes, but mostly delights in telling you, “That stinks.”

But when you know before you even begin writing that your copy will be professionally proofed, you can tell your inner editor to go pound sand. You’ll write the way you think, get the ideas out of your head quickly and experience creativity in a new way.

2) Ensures that readers will understand your copy

Our brains know what we want to say, but we can’t always express it flawlessly. Another set of eyes ensures that your audience will get it.

Some professional proofreading services have more than one set of eyes check your work; sometimes two or three proofreaders read your copy.

And that takes us to the third benefit of professional proofreading.

3) Boosts your inner (and outer) confidence

Do you ever cross your fingers hoping and praying that your messages are clear? If so, then you’ll love having a professional proofreader check your copy. Seeing your work professionally polished boosts your inner confidence as a communicator, thereby motivating you to promote and share your content with others. As a result, you’ll exude confidence.

4) Frees you from depending on your network

Under a tight deadline? Hoping your friend has time to check your copy and meet your deadline? Sure, having a friend read your work is good – don’t get me wrong. But you don’t want to be a burden on a friend by taking advantage of his or her good will and proofreading prowess.

Step away from your network and use a proofreading service. They have proofreaders available for you – and your deadlines – anytime.

5) Increases your knowledge about copywriting

Using a professional proofreading service is an enjoyable learning experience. Study your original copy and compare it to the suggested changes. (You can, of course, accept or reject the changes as you see fit.)

If you continue to use the same service, over time you’ll develop a relationship with your proofreaders; they will learn your style, and you will hone your communication and writing skills.

But it’s still an additional cost

Some proofreading services offer different levels of services. So if you’re not quite ready to pay for premium editing services, start by having your copy proofread for grammar, spelling, punctuation and typos.

If you find this basic level of service valuable, consider submitting a project for an expanded level of editing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. I find that the monetary cost for professional proofreading and editing of my copy far outweighs the cost of not having it proofread.

No time for professional proofreading?

It happens. A deadline looms and there isn’t enough time for someone to proofread your work. So when you’re short for time, use these three steps to proofread your copy:

  1. Print it.
  2. Read it aloud.
  3. Read it backward.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Summary

Get past “good enough.” Consider hiring a professional proofreader to polish your work, ensuring that your message leaves readers with a lasting, memorable impression.

Over to you

  • What proofreading tricks do you use?
  • When do you proofread – before or after clients review copy?
  • What other benefits of proofreading did I miss?
  • Why wouldn’t you use a professional proofreader?

Author: Thomas Clifford

Thomas Clifford is a B2B content marketing writer and certified copywriter. He helps companies generate and nurture high quality leads through eNewsletters, blog articles and free special download reports. Tom has 25 years under his belt as an award-winning B2B filmmaker. He's produced hundreds of marketing-branding films and brings his street-level interviewing experience to every project. Tom is featured in the book “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business." He has also written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for FastCompany.com. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @ThomasClifford. His blog, "Humanizing Business Communications," is packed with new media business communication tips and writing strategies. His eBook "5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier" is free to new subscribers.

Other posts by Thomas Clifford

  • Conni Eversull

    Great article, Tom! 

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

       Thanks, Conni. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • http://www.marketingtrenches.com Tracy Gold

     Great post–and something we prescribe to wholeheartedly at Right Source Marketing. In fact, we just wrote about the importance of a QA process–which holds true for not just writing, but videos, webinar administration, design, any form of content marketing.    We’ve found that even with a professional proofreader, mistakes still slip through–so we try to have every piece of content get more than one pair of eyes before we publish it, though I do admit no one else has looked at this comment, ha. Thanks for the great proofreader evangelism!    We’ve found that even with a professional proofreader, mistakes still slip through–so we try to have every piece of content get more than one pair of eyes before we publish it, though I do admit no one else has looked at this comment, ha. Thanks for the great proofreader evangelism! 

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Thanks, Tracy. 

      Yes, I agree; having more than one pair of eyes is definitely helpful when it comes to proofing. And proofreading is valuable for more than just picking up mistakes. Sometimes it’s catching a point of view that is off. Or your premise is not as strong as it could be. Or the content drifts off into other areas. A second or third set of eyes can help prevent these from happening, making your copy stronger.

  • David Drickhamer

    This might come as a surprise to some, but many trade publishers (dare we say most!) no longer have copy editors or proofreaders. The business model no longer supports that QA resource. Publishers rely on software (spelling and grammar checkers) and the innate abilities of editor/writers and more-or-less well-executed processes (multiple readers). It works ok, usually. B2B content creators should set their quality sights higher than today’s publishers.  

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      David – I do find this surprising! So they rely on writer for everything, and there is no second set of eyes? I am a HUGE proponent of a copy editor. Even great writers miss things, and most other writers can benefit from another perspective.

      • http://www.allurenewmedia.com Brody Dorland

        I agree…We always miss things because “we’re too close to it”. A second set of eyes, at a minimum, should be a requirement before anything goes out the door. 

      • David Drickhamer

        Another set of eyes, for sure, part of the standard process for draft text and layout. But staff dedicated 100% to quality assurance is increasingly rare. Everyone has to contribute some original content, i.e., something of quantifiable value, to justify salary expense.

      • David Drickhamer

        Another set of eyes, for sure, part of the standard process for draft text and layout. But staff dedicated 100% to quality assurance is increasingly rare. Everyone has to contribute some original content, i.e., something of quantifiable value, to justify salary expense.

    • http://twitter.com/virtuallori Lori Paximadis

      Most book and journal publishers no longer have copyeditors and proofreaders *on staff,* but send the work out to freelancers like me. I’ve heard of isolated cases of small publishers experimenting with no copyediting or proofing, or attempting to get the author to foot the bill for those services, but that is not the norm among mainstream publishers.

  • Brian

     I do the print out and the read aloud, when I’m crunched for time, but I haven’t tried the “read it backwards” trick yet—thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Brian,

      I forgot where I read about reading backwards. It’s a neat trick that definitely works well, especially when you’re crunched for time. (Actually, it works well anytime!)

  • http://twitter.com/klrecris Karen L. Roach

    Having a professional proofreader can help prevent embarrassing situation of distributing content that contains misspelled business or product names or names of event sponsors or donors. Also, I’m the type of reader who has a hard time focusing on the content when it’s riddled with typos.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Karen,

      Great point re: preventing misspelled names; that could be pretty disastrous, to say the least. That’s another advantage to having several people carefully check your work.

      That’s second point is interesting, too, re: trying to focus on copy filled with typos. It kind of reminds me of driving around pot holes– it’s really distracting.

  • Yvonne

    Tom’s right on the money. As a writer and proofreader, I found the “inner editor” critiquing as you write something I hadn’t previously considered.  But it’s so true. 

    I’ve yet to meet a computer that truly understands the English (or probably other) language, and relying on spelling and grammar checks is sometimes laughable.

    Thanks for a great boost for proofreaders, Tom!

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Yvonne,

      Yes, that “inner editor” is one heck of a nuisance! But we can ignore it more easily knowing our work has a second or third set of eyes double-checking our work; therefore, boosting our creativity. (At least that’s been my experience.)

      Thanks for sharing your ideas. 

  • Lorraine

    Great post. As content goes to press with increasing speed–and in increasing quantity–we continue to watch quality slide. “Good enough” may not be good enough–at least for content marketers who want to stand out: In addition to being, you know, correct, clean, typo-free content may prove a way to differentiate yourself.

    For copy projects, I always pay a professional proofreader to proof drafts before delivering them to clients. I include cost of proofers’ professional services when pricing projects.

    My own blog posts are proofed as well–a little closer to home: My collegial circle includes writers, journalists and copy editors. Another set of eyeballs always proofreads before I push publish.

    Just a note: There is a difference in services–and pricing–between proofreading and copy editing. Proofreaders correct spelling and usage. Copy editors also make these corrections–but go further to suggest content clarifications, revisions and restructuring.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Lorraine,

      Thanks for pointing out the differences between proofreading and copy editing. Some services do offer multiple price points so people can choose the best service for their project. It’s worth exploring ahead of time. That way, when a project comes in you want proofed and/or edited, you know what’s available.

      And that’s a great point about content marketers using professional proofreaders as a way for them to stand out– as well as providing the great benefits they do.

  • Mankindof

     “What other benefits of proofreading did I miss?”

    Credibility.  This is especially important for the people you’re speaking to on this blog:  people who are publishing professional and/or technical content, which is to say, people selling knowledge and expertise.  And simply put, it’s difficult to trust the knowledge or expertise of a person who cannot tell the difference between “your” and “you’re”.  Irrespective of the the substance of your writing, you are not credible as an expert of anything if you cannot construct a proper sentence. Having a proofreader help weed out mistakes gives every published piece a more polished, professional, and credible feel.

  • http://twitter.com/kimgusta Kim Gusta

    Very useful post.  I have been thinking about looking for a proofreader/editor but haven’t taken that plunge yet. Do you have an editing/proofreading service you’d recommend?  Any particular questions to ask, things to look for in a professional editor/proofreader? 

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Kim,

      Oh, do take the plunge! If you do, you’ll start seeing immediate benefits. 

      I would consider submitting a short piece (say 500 words or maybe 1,000 words) for proofing and editing. Submit something you think stands up well and then compare it to the proofer’s version. If you’re pleased with the results, you’re good to go. If not, try another service until you’re happy. Hope that helps you!

  • http://twitter.com/CultureHappens Ron VanPeursem

    Hey, Thomas, thanks for the shot in the arm. For now I’m surviving on in-house proofing, but your list of benefits is compelling. Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Ron,

      You’re welcome. In-house proofing is definitely a great start, of course. Consider springing for one job professional proofed just to see what it’s like. You may wonder why you didn’t do it sooner! 

  • http://www.proofreadnow.com/free-proofreading-offer Conni Eversull

    If any of you would like to see how a professional proofreading service works, I have a special offer for you. We’ll perform a Level 1 proofreading at no charge on a one or two page document. Try us out — see what we catch!  .

  • http://twitter.com/kimgusta Kim Gusta

    Do you feel it’s important for a proofreader to have experience in your industry if you’re writing industry-specific materials?  I specialize in high-tech marketing, so I’m wondering if it’s best to hire a proofreader who also understands high-tech copywriting. 

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Kim,

      I don’t have a lot of experience with this but I do know certain services offer different proofreading capabilities, such as having specialty proofreaders proofread your work. 

      I think it would be easy to find a specific match to your writing. Maybe consider taking Connie up on her offer. (Commenting below.) 

    • http://www.proofreadnow.com/free-proofreading-offer Conni Eversull

      Kim:

      If you click on my name, it will take you to the free offer page on our site. We do have proofreaders and editors who specialize in areas like legal, medical, high-tech, etc.  

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