Self-publish to your heart’s content, but please pay a proof-reader

We’re all publishers today. Nearly every service provider is in the business of creating content and self-publishing as a way to lift their profile.

The rush to publish creates clutter, and for many readers triggers what Wurman aptly names ‘information anxiety’. With so much information available, how do readers choose content with value? And how do self-publishers create something that stands above the clutter and really provides useful content?

Of course, one strategy to achieve self-publishing success is to write quality content. Content-rich, credible, useful, informative material will be valuable – even if your main readers are your competitors. Equally important is the need to produce content that is both well written and error free.

I’m a writer, and it’s my job to notice writing. But when I’m reading, I work with a little self-imposed policy that I won’t be hyper-critical. I’m not a comma hunter and I don’t want to be known as a grammar queen. I’m much more interested in good ideas and clear communication. I accept that many people who are not professional writers have interesting and worthwhile content to share, and I make it my business to ignore their little writing slips so that I can access their ideas.

I’m also the first to admit that no document is perfect. Ever. There will always be a mistake and there will always be something that could be written more clearly. I know that I’m not perfect, so I do my best not to set myself up as ‘Dr Perfection’ (maybe I should write: ‘I no that Im not prefect’).

Little errors are easy to forgive if the overall document shows care and value. But people who are in the business of creating content to lift their profile would be well-advised to pay a professional editor or proof-reader before distributing their work. Today I read a report that illustrates this perfectly.

I get regular emails from Flying Solo, and I often come across useful content that gets me thinking about my business. Today I downloaded a report about how to market myself and build my profile. As I read the report, I became increasingly irritated by careless errors. Less than half-way through, I stopped reading for content and began to count mistakes. 

I decided to ignore writing mistakes that many people don’t notice – things like hyphens used in place of dashes, hyphenation turned on in left-aligned text, misplaced or missing commas, who/whom errors, and non-hyphenated compound adjectives. I also decided to ignore clumsy sentences that I was itching to rewrite. 

Even with these things put aside, I counted 45 errors in a 33-page report. Only 12 pages were error free. The mistakes were mostly the result of poor proof-reading. Here are four typical examples: ‘Show the progress you work made …’; ‘.. your work is inline with …’; ‘each platform has it’s own culture…’; ‘… you know what you need to focus one’; ‘we believe thawou have a big mission…’.

I find it difficult to forgive these errors because this document was encouraging me to build my profile and credibility by writing and publishing. This sentence appeared on a page with 4 errors: ‘Even if you do have something of great potential, you must never leave people questioning your credibility to deliver the promised result’.

I question the credibility of a writer who doesn’t check for the most basic of errors. And then I question whether that writer could ever offer me a product or service with value.

Poor content could encourage your potential clients to think less of you than if you had written nothing. Readers notice inconsistencies and errors. They judge you and your competence based on the quality of your writing. So please, if you plan to write content, do yourself a favour and pay a professional editor or proof-reader.