The Luck of the Irish Won’t Prevent Grammatical Mistakes

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up on March 17, I wanted to share some thoughts on the importance of incorporating proofreading into your communications project workflows. If you are simply hoping that you will avoid embarrassing and sometimes costly mistakes, I can assure you that eventually, your luck will run out.

Each month, our team of proofreaders reviews thousands of pages of content. This includes employee benefits communications, white papers, case studies, marketing materials, and more.

Most of these materials are written by well-educated writers and/or subject-matter experts. Some of the materials we review are highly polished and simply need a second set of eyes to avoid any embarrassing mistakes or typos. Other drafts require substantive editing and major grammatical overhauls.

In all cases, however, our clients have made the smart decision to avoid leaving the accuracy of their communications to luck. They understand the importance of incorporating proofreading into their workflows. Yes, proofreading delays the completion of a communications project. But isn’t it better to take the time to do something right, rather than to do it quickly and experience regrets later on?

To maintain your standing in the workplace and protect your business’s reputation, make sure you avoid these four common proofreading pitfalls:

1. Relying 100% on spellcheck

A final spellcheck is always a smart idea. However, spellcheck alone will not catch instances where you spelled a word correctly but used the wrong word. Common examples we see include:

  • manger vs. manager
  • heath vs. health
  • pubic vs. public
  • causal vs. casual
  • complement vs. compliment

2. Double spacing between sentences

Are you still double-spacing between sentences? That’s a holdover rule that applies from the days of typewriters. Today, there is no need to double space at the end of a sentence.

3. Placing punctuation outside of quotation marks

Whenever you use quotation marks, the associated punctuation should appear inside the marks, not outside.

  • Incorrect: Some investors prefer to put their retirement savings on “auto pilot”, rather than manage it themselves.
  • Correct: Some investors prefer to put their retirement savings on “auto pilot,” rather than manage it themselves.

4. Misplaced modifiers

In some cases, writers phrase things in such a way that they create unintended meanings. For example, a recent draft report we reviewed contained a sentence that read:

“I currently co-own Patches with my mother, an ex-racehorse in training for show jumping.”

The writer’s mother would probably not be too happy to read this sentence!

Good grammar might feel like a minor detail in the grand scheme of your career or your business operations. However, professionals cannot afford to ignore the potential negative impact of a poorly written report or a sloppy sales proposal. That’s why it often makes sense to outsource your editing and proofreading needs to professionals.

Neil Rhein is President of Bullseye Communications, where he and his team provide business writing, editing, and proofreading services to corporate clients.