Monday, February 26, 2018

Beyond Spell Check: The Proof Is in the Reading

Did you take a nice long drive during the winter holidays? Do you find yourself making extended road trips on business? Many of us do -- which means that many of us find ourselves reading roadside billboards and other signage to stave off the boredom of the road. Even those of us who spend all our days in our offices are likely to encounter countless ads online and in print. We may create some of that content ourselves. If we're in a real hurry to beat a deadline, we may rush the copy to the printer after a quick run through a spell-checker. Then we see the final results, and we wish we hadn't done that.

Proofreading matters, if only because the errors you pump out will live forever on the Internet. Even if you're producing a sign or advertisement in a language most of your viewing public doesn't understand, somebody, somewhere, has devoted a humorous website to you.

Yes, your spell-checking tool catches lots of errors. But what about that misused word it doesn't recognize or that proper name it doesn't have in its database? That's why you must always give your marketing content a once-over with your own eyeballs. If your eyeballs are tired, put the content away and proofread it later. But proofread it.

Of course, you can dot every I and cross every T and still end up with a ludicrous misstatement. Somewhere along U.S. Highway 83 (I forget where) stands a roadside sign for a combination gas station and restaurant. The sign proclaims proudly -- and quite seriously -- "EAT HERE! GET GAS!" 

You may encounter entire concepts that needed one more pass through the marketing department. How about that billboard that always seems to pop up in or around small towns -- the one for the BBQ place that depicts a cute cartoon pig squealing in terror as he runs from a guy with a butcher knife? Sure, it's funny if you're into that sort of thing, but does it really pull people off the highway with their stomachs growling? "Hey, you know that pig you were slashing to death on the billboard? I'd like some of that, with a side of slaw."

So consider this post a public service announcement. Don't just run your marketing content through a spell checker and call it done. Use human eyes and human brains. If you want some additional quality control, don't stop with your own evaluation. Have someone else look at it so you can get a second opinion, both on the mechanics and on the content itself. If you really want some quality assurance, hire a professional writer to proofread and edit your content. Better yet, let that professional writer create your content from scratch -- and lock in the quality from the very first word!