By Kelly Owen 21 Nov, 2017

In this fast-paced world, mistakes are understandable, but failure to edit and proofread your business e-mails can lead to catastrophic results . Typos and other errors in e-mails can make you seem unprofessional and careless. However, there are steps that you can take to proofread your e-mails more effectively. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to keep errors out of your online communications right now.

1.       Type the recipient’s name correctly

One of the reasons people are so irritated when they see their names misspelt in e-mails is because it gives the impression that the sender does not care about them. You may wish to conduct a Google search, check your business records or look on a business network such as LinkedIn to ensure you have typed their name correctly. If you’re still unsure about how to spell their name after that, don’t include it in your message.

2.       Use the right tone

If your e-mail doesn’t sound sufficiently warm or friendly, you may alienate the recipient. It’s a wise move to read the message that you are sending back to yourself two or three times, to check you are happy with the tone. Imagine you are the recipient of the e-mail while reading it back, especially if you’re talking to clients, customers or employees. Think of ways you can make your request sound friendlier.

3.       Are you conveying your message correctly?

Does your e-mail include valuable information about a news story, promotion or event? Make sure you haven’t assumed too much knowledge on the part of the reader. Have you left out anything they can’t be expected to know, such as who you are and what services you provide? Similarly, make sure you are not providing irrelevant information. You may risk losing the interest of your recipient if your message isn’t clear or concise. Write short sentences and use small words, unless you are using terminology the reader is likely to be familiar with – they may only have a few moments to read and digest your e-mail.

4.       Choose your verbs carefully

To avoid using the same words too often in your message, swap words you have typed multiple times for more interesting or even more powerful alternatives. If you can cut words out from sentences without compromising the meaning, consider doing so.

5.       Proofread repeatedly – can the message wait?

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply scan your text once before sending it. Go through your message slowly three or four times, focussing on each sentence, to ensure your grammar and spelling are correct. Spell-checkers can help you, but they can overlook errors from time-to-time. You may even wish to wait a while before sending your e-mail, especially if it contains sensitive information which could generate an angry or otherwise emotional response. If necessary, leave your message in your drafts folder and wait a day or two before checking it again and releasing it. Also, drafting an email on your smartphone is fine, but make sure you finish and send it on your computer to avoid embarrassing predictive text errors creeping in.

If you'd like to know more about improving your writing, our FREE 10 Top Tips for Writing Well  provides useful advice to help you improve your general business writing skills. 
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By Kelly Owen 23 Aug, 2017

We live in technical times. One would think, with increasingly smart language technology, such as predictive text and advanced grammar checkers, there would be less need for proofreading. That the work is done for us. However, as professional proofreaders, we're seeing more documents coming through that appear to have been written on a tablet or smartphone and this creates a new problem...

Say the writer finishes a report on the train home, on their phone or iPad. There's no time (and limited functionality) to edit, so it then gets sent straight to the designer. Job done.

The reason we can tell this is happening is because we're seeing some unusual spelling substitutions in the documents we proofread.

Where you can often check a mis-keying by looking at the keyboard and seeing that an adjoining key was pressed by mistake, with predictive text whole words are replaced with what an unrefined algorithm thinks you wanted to say (based on words you may have typed before in a text message or similar words it recognises using the letters or numbers you've pressed). It can have some interesting outcomes!

We know that predictive text has created some amusing and embarrassing mistakes in texting and messaging. There are numerous websites that record funny examples, such as  and even a board game where players have to guess the intended word! However, with the rise in 'working on the go', this trend of bizarre errors is creeping into documents of a more-important nature.

By Kelly Owen 09 Aug, 2017

In this short video, Kelly Owen, Director of Ultimate Proof Ltd, explains a few essential aspects of proofreading PDFs, and why it's not always as straightforward as it seems!

An experienced PDF proofreader will ensure that any amends they mark on the file are clearly identifiable, so that the person reading the file can easily see what needs to be changed and make the amends to the source file.

We most often use the Callout Tool  and Highlighter  to mark-up PDFs, although there are numerous options available.

As the use of these tools adds more time to the job, we cost PDF proofreading slightly differently to other work. It is useful to see a sample of the PDF to be proofread in order for us to accurately quote you. A 20-page PDF may contain 500 words or 5,000. The 500-word PDF may require numerous edits and amends, the 5,000-word PDF may be fairly clean. There is so much to consider, so every job is costed accordingly.

By Kelly Owen 09 Jul, 2017
‘What if you miss something?’ I was asked recently by a potential new client enquiring about Ultimate Proof’s proofreading service.

It’s not an unusual question for a client to ask of the person they are paying to check their text for accuracy; however, as a freelance proofreader, it is an important point to cover from the outset.

In an ideal world, a qualified and experienced proofreader would pick up every minute error – polishing the text to such a degree that it is perfect. Certainly, that is the standard we aim for with each job we do. However, there are times when this might not happen, such as when the deadline is very tight (too much to check, too little time), or the text needs to be edited rather than proofread, and a proofreading error is missed as the paid time has been spent sorting out the content.

I’m a perfectionist (a handy thing to be in this game!), so to even whisper ‘missed a typo’ makes me shudder. I run a managed team of exceptionally sharp proofreaders and have used the services of a number of experienced freelancers over the years – all of whom have missed the odd thing, or more , in some cases. I quickly realised that proofreaders weren't perfect, and needed to somehow get that across to my clients without putting them off!

Some years ago, I pointed out to one of my now-regular proofreaders that I’d noticed a few errors she’d missed (I check every job before it goes back to the client). The line didn’t go dead nor was I faced with a rant about how much time she’d spent on it. Instead, I received a succinct and professionally apologetic response offering to revisit the text immediately or give a discount on the fee. I noted the gesture and felt like a valued client to my freelancer, who clearly wanted to keep working with me and had learnt from the oversight.

Yet, on another occasion, I was dissatisfied with a new proofreader’s work on a small job, so I sent an email explaining that it wasn’t up to our standard and that I couldn’t see me offering them more work. I didn’t get a response to ask why, or to see how it could have been done differently, I was simply asked to pay the invoice. I paid, despite having to re-proof the job myself, but I know that many of my clients wouldn’t have paid me if I’d done the same. If it's not good enough for me, it's not good enough for them.

Some clients are cautious about entrusting their text to an external supplier. Even though I'm an experienced proofreader, they may still have a nagging doubt in their mind that I might mess up on the deadline, write something that I shouldn’t, or miss a fundamental error. I do my best to reassure them. Using Track Changes in Word for example, so that the client can check what we’ve amended. Delivering ahead of deadline with a clear log of errors and queries.

Yet, pedantic (and 'perfect') as we are, proofreaders are still open to a degree of ‘human error’. Over 12 years in business, I have developed a number of additional ‘safeguards’ to minimise the margin:

Clear quotations: with every enquiry, I email a quotation that outlines exactly what has been asked, what we will do, when we will do it by and what the price will be. This way, the client can ask if they need us to do more, or if they have any specific requests.

Terms of business: every company has them, no one reads them (except us!), but we ensure all clients are aware of our terms before we start work. Our terms confirm the contractual obligations on both sides of the order.
Service standards: this is an expansion of the quality assurance aspect in our terms. We like to start every relationship being open about what clients can expect from our service. 

More than one proofreader: some large or high-profile jobs need more than one freelancer, so we offer two or three proofreaders to look at the same file, or different proofreaders to check different stages of the proof, or the files split across the team to cover more in less time. Most jobs don’t require this level of cover, but it’s there if our clients want it.

Writing about missing errors may seem an odd approach from a company that specialises in proofreading; however, it's thanks to my attention to this area that we have such a good reputation. Having worked client side in the past, I have numerous experiences of suppliers missing things (a design layout error, or an unchecked printer's proof) and what always worked best was an honest and open dialogue, and a quick and satisfactory resolution to the problem.

Thankfully, most clients are reasonable about their expectations of a proofreader, and anyone who works for me knows how 'fussy' I am! So, as well as doing a brilliant job, I feel it is our customer service – demonstrating we deal with things professionally – that sets us apart from the competition and has seen our clients return time and again.
By Kelly Owen 09 Jun, 2017

How your business is presented in writing can be likened to dressing for an important interview. Dress smartly and you portray an image of professionalism and trust; dress down, however, and confidence in your abilities won’t be as positive.

Most businesses have brand guidelines which help them to ensure their corporate identity is clear and recognisable to the outside world. However, not as many extend this principle to their written word. Developing house rules regarding text will help to ensure any copy produced by your company is consistent, correct and, therefore, professional. A freelance proofreader will absorb your style guide and apply its principles to everything they check for you.

A text style guide needn’t be complicated; the complexity largely depends on what type of copy you produce. A magazine publisher will need to establish some rules about how titles are written, and the use of headers, bold, italic and superscript, for example. If you publish reports or documents of a more technical nature, it’s likely your style guide will need to be more detailed. Then there are the ‘basics’, such as the use of capitals, hyphenation and punctuation of lists and bullets — surprisingly, even here, every company’s preferences are different!

No matter what size your business, if you produce text then it is likely that a style guide will be beneficial to you. If you don’t yet have a style guide then we can develop a personal guide that addresses the needs of your business. Ultimate Proof can build on the basics, in terms of punctuation and spelling, and create a clear and practical guide for your company that can be given to anyone who might produce copy for you. If everyone is ‘singing from the same style sheet’ to start with, you will not only reduce the overall risk of error, but will save time and money on proofreading and amends.

By Kelly Owen 09 May, 2017

Can you relate to this? In our age of wanting everything immediately, it can be easy to cut back on time and resource checking over the words you're communicating to your customers - you know, those people you want to trust you, respect you and buy from you. Then you press 'send', 'post' or 'print' and don't realise there are errors that will scream at you afterwards (or even worse will be highlighted by your customers).

I know we 'go on about it', but the proofreading process is so important, and just as important as writing the words themselves.

What impression do you get if you visit a company’s website and see spelling mistakes, or if there's a typo on a poster, or if a company has long or complicated sentences in their policy documents? It's very likely you'll think, ‘If they can’t even get their grammar right, what else are they going to get wrong?’

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, or whether your company is a sole trader or a large corporation. If you want to portray a professional image and persuade customers that you’re the right company for the job, you need to get things right – starting with the basics. Good spelling and grammar are absolutely fundamental and there’s no excuse for getting them wrong.

But we’re not all geniuses at English, we’re not all grammar geeks and we can’t all get it right every time. You wouldn’t ask a builder to fix your computer any more than you’d ask an accountant to service your car. That’s why, when your goal is to appear professional to your readers, you need to use a professional wordsmith who knows how to save you from embarrassing typographical mistakes.

By Kelly Owen 09 Apr, 2017

Social media is a great place to find out about businesses and news, and to chat to friends and colleagues, but it’s also become a place to laugh at others’ expense or to expose mistakes. This isn’t very nice, especially when it’s you they’re laughing at or your company’s mistake that’s being shared around the web.

On social media, your mistakes can spread like wildfire.

The kind of people who will spot your mistakes are exactly the sort of people you wouldn’t want to spot them! Of the PR professionals on Twitter, 15% of them follow more than 2,000 people, compared to just 0.29% of all Twitter users who follow that number, according to social media monitoring organisation,  Sysomos . So people who spend a lot of time dealing with words for a living are going to reach an awful lot of followers when they share your poor spelling or your hilariously misplaced apostrophe.

There are accounts on Twitter, enthusiastically followed by grammar geeks, who are dedicated to sharing your spelling slip-ups and apostrophe fails. US-based company  Grammarly  has over 61,000 followers alone. If a social media user uses the right hashtag (#grammarfail #apostrophefail and #proofreadfail are just some examples), these accounts will pick up your grammar errors and share them far and wide. Followers and like-minded people will retweet them and suddenly your spelling mistake is everywhere. The bigger the blunder, the better! Suddenly, you and possibly your company are left looking rather silly.

Girl shot dead stepfather and fatally stabbed mother before fleeing with boyfriend

(The accuracy of this tragic news story is diluted due to the journalist’s lack of care and leaves us wondering why a girl would shoot an already dead man…)

Don’t forget, it’s not just your tweets and Facebook posts they’re looking at – they’re looking at your reports and brochures, your websites, even your signs above the shop door. Grammar spies are everywhere and they’re just 140 characters away from making you look at best careless, at worst unreliable and unprofessional.

Taking time to check what you post on social media has become just as important as proofreading in print. So, before you publish it, check it! Should that apostrophe be there? Are there any typos? Is it possible to get a fresh pair of eyes to look over it, or even call in the help of a  professional proofreader ? Once something is on the web, it’s there forever.

A few minutes of careful checking can save your money, time and, ultimately, your reputation!

By Kelly Owen 09 Mar, 2017

We love your briefs!
Be as clear in your brief as you can. Include information such as the word or page count, the work required, the schedule and any particular style preferences or concerns you might have.

Keep in touch. 
We can usually react very quickly to urgent requests; however, as soon as you know you might need some proofreading assistance, drop us a line. We can pencil it into the diary in readiness so you know you have help there when you need it and, if it gets delayed or cancelled, you’ve lost nothing.

Get a free sample text check.
To get the best idea of what work needs doing, send us a short sample of your text and we’ll edit it at no cost. This is particularly helpful to authors and students, who may not realise the work a proofreader would need to do to whip your words into shape. Then, you can decide if you want to work on your text a little more to save money as well as get an insight into how the process works. We’re happy to do this as it gives us the chance to impress you and demonstrate our professionalism and abilities.

How was it for you? 
We always put every care and attention into our work so a few comments really help us to ensure we’re delivering what you need. If you want something done differently, we can usually adapt our service to meet your requirements.

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