Proofreading Your Copy: Perfection vs. Persuasion
You’ve finally finished writing your piece. Just one step left before you send it to the client: proofreading.
Proofreading your copy means evaluating and correcting a number of elements:
- Voice and tone
But does everything have to be perfect? Not necessarily.
The goal of marketing copy is different from the goal of a college term paper. Sure, your message needs to be clear. And lazy or sloppy work is never acceptable.
But perfection isn’t always as important as persuasion.
Proofreading Your Copy for Perfection
Facts. You can’t cut corners here. Facts must be correct. Get one fact wrong and the readers will doubt everything else you say. Don’t risk your credibility by confusing dates or incorrectly citing an expert.
Take the time to check names, dates, titles, statistics, and other facts for accuracy.
Formatting. Issues under this umbrella include font choice, margin size, and heading style. These could be governed by your client’s branding style manual. If they have one, you should aim for perfection in aligning your copy with those rules.
If no such style manual exists, the goal is consistency throughout your document. Inconsistent formatting looks careless, which is another credibility buster.
Proofreading Your Copy for Persuasion
Voice and tone. This is where you start to bend the rules a little bit. Most brands recognize the value in copy that reads conversationally. A sales letter that reads like a friend talking to you is far more engaging and persuasive than one that reads like formal business correspondence.
When you’re proofreading for voice and tone, pay less attention to correct sentence structure and nitpicky usage errors and more attention to how natural and on-brand the copy sounds.
As long as the message is clear and it sounds the way your audience would speak, it’s okay if the sentence is just a fragment or you used who instead of whom.
Mechanics. This is the element that most people associate with proofreading—the spelling and punctuation. Yes, they’re important. Misspellings can signal laziness. Improper punctuation can confuse your readers. Those mistakes should be corrected, for sure.
But this doesn’t mean you have to correct everything to the standards of a hard-nosed English professor. Again, conversational copy is your goal. And breaking some grammar rules sometimes helps achieve that.
- Use fresh eyes. You’ve read and reread your copy so many times by now, your objectivity is probably fading. If you can hire a copywriting proofreader, great. If not, give yourself at least a day between writing and proofing. Otherwise, you’re likely to see what you think you wrote and not what’s really there.
- Read it out loud. Yes, you’ll feel silly. But reading aloud is such a good tool for recognizing unnatural sentence flow and inconsistent tone. Better yet, ask someone else to read it out loud to you.
- Change the font. This little change helps you see the words differently so you can pick up typos you’ve been overlooking.
- Print the document. This perspective change also helps you see the text differently. Plus, we tend to scan words on a screen. A physical document invites more thorough reading and proofing.
- Read it backward. Start with the last sentence and move backward. This keeps you from anticipating what’s coming up so you see what’s actually there.