Destination Directory

The Power of Proofreading

In 2006, Alitalia airlines advertised a flight from Toronto to Cyprus for $39, when the actual price was $3,900.

The error wasn't discovered until 2,000 tickets, at the discounted fee, had been sold, costing the Italian airlines a whopping $7.72 million. Imagine, with inflation, how much that would be today?

The Pasta Bible, a cookbook published by Penguin Books Australia, listed ingredients in a recipe as "salt and freshly ground black people." That error cost the company more than $20,000 to recall, republish, and infuse cash into a campaign that let the public know the mistake wasn't deliberate.

The above examples illustrate how everything you write and publish needs to be proofread. Not only because errors can create a nightmare for your bottom line, but also because of the influence they have on how others view your business. Misspelled words, grammatical errors, and incorrect punctuation all damage your credibility and even your search engine rankings. You don't want your competitors to be found before you in a Google search because you didn't proofread. Whether it's a brief email, a contract, website copy, an advertisement, or a newsletter, every piece of writing you create for publication needs to be proofread.

Follow these five P's to maintain or boost your trustworthiness by sending error-free messages:

Preview: Even a short email needs to be proofread to make sure you've written exactly what you want to say without errors. Fill in the recipient line after you have read and reread your email, post, or article. You don't want to accidently send something before it is ready to be sent. Check every section of your publication, including subject lines, headers, and links.

Purge: Run a spellcheck to help eliminate any typos. Remove negative or offensive language, or any language that could be misunderstood by the target audience.

Punctuate: A sign such as "Caution Pedestrians Slippery When Wet" or an email announcing that "Group Ticket's Go On Sell Tomorrow" will buy some ridicule on social media, which is something your business doesn't want. So, check your use of commas, periods, and question marks. Use exclamation points and all caps sparingly, as they can appear to be yelling at the reader. Keep a paper or digital copy of The Elements of Style or the The Associated Press Stylebook handy as a reference when you want to maximize your writing skills.

Print: For published items other than emails or short posts, it can be helpful to print out what you have written. Double-space the document for a different view than you have on your screen. Proofread the article backward (from the last word back to the beginning) and always have another set of eyes look over it for you.

Publish: You've done your due diligence, and you can now press send.

Heather Larson writes about a variety of business issues from her office in Tacoma, Washington.

The article was republished with permission and originally appeared on American Bus Association.


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