The end of writing is just the beginning

You type the last few words of your draft and save the file. It feels good. You are happy with the text and pleased to have finished. This seems like the end of the process, but it is just the beginning.

Any professional writer will tell you that after the writing comes the editing and proofreading. These crucial steps – sometimes skipped and often misunderstood – are the keys to delivering a finished article that communicates unambiguously and is pleasing to read and error free.

The first step is editing. All text needs some editing, no matter how long or short. Editing aims to make your text the best it can be within the constraints of time and budget. Does it say what you mean and/or want? Does it really mean what it says? Is it fit-for-purpose? Is it grammatically correct? What about the spelling and style? Are the facts correct? Can readers easily understand it? Is the meaning clear for those who do not have English as their first language? Is the document structured in a logical manner?

Poorly structured text can bury the writer’s key messages or distort the reader’s understanding of the subject. If there are problems of this kind in the manuscript, a good editor will find and rectify them.

Proofreading is the final and most essential step before you can consider your document complete. It aims to ensure that the final version is free from errors, whatever they may be: misspellings, ambiguities and other inconsistencies.

My computer does that for me
Some people believe that their word-processing software will take care of everything in the quality department. Built-in tools for checking spelling and grammar are useful and you should use them, but automated spell checking will not catch all the mistakes that appear in text. Specifically, it will not catch misspellings that form other valid words. This is how we end up with on-screen instructions such as “Click her to visit our website.”

Checking tools cannot replace professional editors and proofreaders. For example, the software cannot read the text for context with regard to homophones: words that sound alike but are spelled differently, such as “two” and “too” or “team” and “teem”.

You are your own worst editor
You should never try to finalise your own writing. Familiarity with the text, and the fact that you know what you meant to write, makes it hard to find the errors. Fresh eyes, which mean any but yours, will be much more likely to catch the errors you missed.

If you absolutely have to be your own editor, then put the text aside for a while, a day or two if possible, and then try to read it as though you are seeing it for the first time.

Not exciting but very, very important
Mistakes and imperfections in any kind of work can be damaging. And it might not be just your company’s reputation that suffers. Typographical and grammatical errors have caused retailers to lose sales, companies to lose investors, employers to face lawsuits and businesses to incur costly reprints of their printed materials.

Editing and proofreading are crucial, but they can also be tedious, unexciting and time-consuming jobs. This is where a professional service can help. At RSK Communication Services, we do the tedious stuff so your ideas can shine.