We have all had to enlist the services of a professional at one time or another; whether it be an attorney, accountant, contractor, or anything in between. While vetting the person or service, you happen to notice something — maybe it’s in an email or on their website, but suddenly…you no longer feel as confident in this person or their business as much as you once did. You begin looking more carefully at their materials and start to doubt if they are the right fit for your needs. What is it that could have caused such a quick shift in your perception of this person or business? I am talking about “typos:” spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and formatting inconsistencies that slip their way into our emails, marketing materials, websites, and more.
Perhaps I’m just overly-particular, but in my experience, something as simple as a grammatical error or two can quickly cast doubt on the professionalism and quality of services that an individual or business provides. I begin to worry that they are not detail-oriented or will possibly make mistakes while working with me. In the legal realm, where specificity and precision are critical, identifying these types of issues can sometimes be enough for someone to forego one firm and seek out another.
With the help of grammar and spell-check built into almost every program, it is easy to believe that the days of old-fashioned “proofing” are behind us. However, whether you’re an avid writer or prefer drafting bullet-points over full sentences, proofreading the materials and correspondence that you and your company produce is crucial. Here are some tips to ensure you never lose a prospective client or customer due to a preventable written error.
Slow Down. The majority of our mistakes are made because we are moving too quickly. When responding to a client email or drafting a message, try not to do so while distracted. Take a moment to read it over carefully at least once, if not a couple of times, before hitting the send button. You’ll be glad you took the extra couple of minutes to do so.
A Different Approach. Try printing out your materials and proofreading them on paper. You may be shocked at how many errors you skipped over when reading on a screen that suddenly become apparent on paper. This is especially true of spacing and font related mistakes. Another method of reviewing your materials with a fresh perspective is by reading your text out loud. If a sentence sounds funny to your ear, it is likely structured incorrectly, or noticeably awkward to others as well.
Be Consistent. Formatting inconsistencies can be just as noticeable as spelling or grammatical errors. Develop a set of standards that your company abides by; if you write out your numbers a certain way (five vs. 5), make sure you do so in every instance where appropriate.
Keep an eye out for:
• Numbers (written out or numerical digits)
• Dates (long-form or abbreviated)
• Symbols (“percent” or %)
• Ordinal forms (first or 1st)
• Preferential capitalization of terms
In many of these cases there is no “right” or “wrong” way to write them, but being consistent throughout your written materials is the key to maintaining a professional image.
Don’t Assume…We all know how the saying goes. When it comes to the definition of a word, use of punctuation marks, capitalizations, spelling of names, and so on – if you’re unsure, you’re better off looking it up. You won’t earn any points by spelling a client’s name incorrectly when you could have taken a moment to double-check.
The More the Merrier. When it comes to sets of eyes, it never hurts to enlist someone else to review your materials. When we become too familiar with something, your brain begins to fill in what it thinks it should say or depict. You have nothing to lose by asking for help; either your piece is perfect and there is nothing to correct, or the reviewer finds errors that can be corrected before the public sees it. That’s a win-win scenario.
Perception is everything, and you want to ensure the impression you give of yourself and your business is representative of your hard work and ethics. Making the effort to proofread your public-facing materials and messages will give your current and prospective clients assurance that they are in the hands of a business that is focused, professional, trust-worthy and detail-oriented.
Projects and Events Coordinator
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128