By John B Davies
Most professional people realise the importance of getting their work copy-edited and/or proofread, particularly if it is an important document such as a book, a thesis or a business document where accuracy matters. Also, it is not only major documents that need to be proofread but any text that the public will read, whether it be a ten volume extensively researched history or a simple notice of just one sentence.
People often think that proofreading is not necessary for very short texts, but if you go around the high street of any town you are very likely to see spelling and grammar errors on notices in shop windows, such as what proofreaders call the greengrocer's apostrophe! Does this matter? Although trained proofreaders will spot these errors immediately, many people will ask if the general public spots them or if the general public even care? My own opinion is that notices, documents and any printed matter with mistakes can give the impression of unprofessionalism and sometimes may result in giving incorrect information.
Why can I not proofread my own work?
Although it is essential to look through your own work and check for errors before it is published or submitted, this is no guarantee that mistakes will not be missed. It is a fact that whenever any of us reads our own work, we see what we think we have written, not what we actually have written. It can be easy to miss out a word which changes the whole meaning. Have you ever typed an email in a hurry and as soon as you press the 'send' button you realise you have made a mistake and you have to send it again as a corrected version? So it's always a very good idea to ask someone to proofread your work however many or however few words it contains.
Do people care about correct spelling and grammar anymore?
Many would say grammar and spelling do not matter as long as people know what we mean but I would maintain that a good standard of English makes the meaning clear and gives a professional appearance to any text. I am aware that the English language has changed and continues to do so and I always keep up to date with the changes, but the fact that the language is changing does not mean that a good standard of modern English should be abandoned.