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Little Things Mean a Lot

March 1, 2010

By Jim Rhodes

One aspect of marketing communications that is too often neglected is proofreading.

I am amazed at the number of e-mails I get containing misspelled words, poor grammar and improper syntax. For instance, it seems to me that at least once a day I get e-mails from people confusing “there” and “their.”

I suspect the problem is that computer spell-checking software has made people lazy, especially when it comes to e-mails. People just don’t take the time to read through their messages before hitting the “send” button.

The point is this: If you are sending out direct mailers, broadcast e-mails, press releases or any other form of written communication to your customers, you ought to take proofreading seriously. No matter how compelling your prose or persuasive your message, if it is full of mistakes, your readers will judge your professionalism accordingly.

Like most PR firms, we take proofreading very seriously. Our product is the written word, and proofreading is an essential element in our quality control.

That’s why we have a tough proofreading policy. Every press release or article for publication must be proofed aloud by two people before we release it to the media. Ideally, neither of them should be the person who wrote the original copy. It’s a practice that catches most mistakes, and I recommend it to you.

Even a relatively minor mistake, such as a misplaced modifier, can cause a great deal of mischief. I still have a yellowed news clipping from the California Newspaper Publishers Association over 25 years ago concerning a typographical error in a classified ad and subsequent attempts to correct it.

(Monday) FOR SALE – R. D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone 958-0707 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Keely who lives with him cheap.

(Tuesday) NOTICE – We regret having erred in R. D. Jones’ ad yesterday. It should have read: One sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 948-0707 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him after 7 p.m.

(Wednesday) R. D. Jones has informed us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of the error we made in his classified ad yesterday. His ad stands correct as follows:

FOR SALE – R. D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 948-0707 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him.

(Thursday) NOTICE – I, R. D. Jones, have no sewing machine for sale. I SMASHED IT. Don’t call 948-0707, as the telephone has been taken out. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly. Until yesterday she was my housekeeper, but she quit.

I rest my case.