The perils of not using a proofreader were quite literally thrown into the harsh glare of the notoriously unforgiving Hollywood spotlights this week. As Emma Watson, star of all things Harry Potter, posed for photographs at the kill-for-an-invite-post-Oscars party, it was Watson’s grammatically incorrect ‘Times Up’ tattoo that made the biggest headlines.
A hastily posted ‘Fake tattoo proofreading position available’ tweet by Watson didn’t really cut it in terms of dampening down the ensuing hoo-ha. Nor did one from (presumably) loyal fan Ben Dalton, boldly assuming anyone would agree when he claimed the offending inking was ‘gesturing to the hashtag #TimesUp’.
But does any of this Tinsel Town to-do really matter? Well, yes, it does. It matters because it’s a whopping example of the power of tiny mistakes to take focus away from the main message. In this instance, Watson’s obvious support for a good cause came a very slow second to how well she’d prepared to show that support – and she was judged harshly, and very publicly, on what was deemed to be her poor preparation.
Watson’s experience is a salutary lesson. Eschew professional proofreading of your annual reports, marketing materials, website content, tenders – in fact, anything which promotes your business in any way – and you risk being judged accordingly by your readers.
For example, UK online hosiery company Tights Please found that poor spelling had a hugely detrimental effect on online sales. Their tights category page referred to ‘tihgts’. Once rectified, conversions rose by 80 per cent. In this case, better spelling really did get them out of a tight spot.
British online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe makes the case for the importance of proofreading when he says, ‘When you sell or communicate on the internet, 99 per cent of the time it is done by the written word.’ As he rightly points out, ‘Spelling is important to the credibility of a website. When there are already underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.’
Emma Watson can no doubt afford the odd mistake; it’s unlikely she’ll miss out on a leading role as a result of one silly error. But can the same be said about your business? Can you afford to turn customers off by making a bad impression in your business communications? Are you prepared to forego winning that big contract because your submission was poorly edited and proofed?
If you want your business to look as sharp as possible, employ a professional proofreader to polish your words to let the clarity of your message shine through. If it can happen to Emma Watson…