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Okay, I admit it. I am probably (okay, I am definitely!) more sensitive to spelling and grammatical errors than the average person. It is one of the drawbacks of being a writer by profession. I go to the movies and catch the typo in the copyright infringement notice. I glance at a billboard and notice the missing or misplaced apostrophe. I log on to a website and decide not to buy anything because I see a string of misspelled words. What???
It’s true. When I visit a website that has blatant spelling or grammatical errors, I rarely make a purchase on that site. In the back of my mind, I am wondering if it is a legitimate site or if my credit card will be taken over by a shopaholic racking up a string of charges to my account. But up until now, I couldn’t prove that spelling and grammatical errors made a monetary difference to a company’s bottom line even though sloppy content obviously does nothing for a company’s image.
Sean Coughlan, a BBC News education correspondent, however, changed all that. He recently reported that online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe analyzed website sales in England and found that “poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.” Duncombe believes that “…misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility.”
Do you have difficulty catching spelling errors on your website or in other work? Here are some of my favorite proofreading strategies:
- Proofread a paper copy. Yes, I know. It’s better for the environment not to print what’s on your computer screen. When it comes to proofreading, however, it’s worth the cost. I edit on my laptop and when I think everything is okay, I print out a copy for a final look. It’s amazing how many times I find a spelling or grammatical error.
- Use a dictionary. A dictionary is a wonderful thing. There are many free versions online or with software.
- Read from the end. Start at the end of your writing and proofread reading backwards. This forces you to focus on individual words.
- Take a break. It is difficult to proofread something you just finished writing. Take a break from it, even if for a few minutes. You may be surprised at what you find when you read it again.
- Ask someone else to proofread for you. A fresh set of eyes is always helpful in catching typos and spelling errors. This is especially important if your work is being printed professionally.
- Use spell check as a final check. The spell check feature is a wonderful tool as long as you proofread as well. The spell check function finds misspelled words, not necessarily words that are used incorrectly.