This week a friend sent over a company memo containing two mistakes in the first paragraph alone, and there was one more that followed. Oops! We were embarrassed not only for the company but also for the communications team that composed and proofed the memo from the CEO and COO before it was distributed to more than 10,000 employees. I suspect there may be a “needs improvement” marking on someone’s upcoming annual performance review.
No ifs, ands or buts in proofing: when the CEO, you or anyone else from your company signs her/his name to a company document, it should be error-free. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of posting a blog or two that may contain a typo, and I thank those who alerted me before they sat on the site too long. However, when it comes to overseeing corporate communications in my work, I never proof as hard or as thorough as I do for those documents.
You may not have a communications team on hand to write and review your work, so try these simple steps for high-level proofing:
- Use the spellcheck on your computer. This isn’t the end-all, be-all, but the program should catch at least the most basic of errors. And if you’re not sure why it flagged an item, click on the grammar button and find out.
- Read the document aloud. One of the biggest errors writers encounter is skipping words. When you’ve written and reread a document tens of times, your mind begins to fill in the blanks. However, when you read something aloud, you’re more likely to identify those missing or incorrect words. From the memo I received this week: “In addition, certain of our subsidiaries are struggling to meet demand during the economic recovery.” The sentence probably should read, “In addition, a certain number of our subsidiaries are struggling to meet demand…”
- Have at least two other people review the document. This was mandatory in a PR department in which I worked, and I’ve held fast to that standard ever since.