Summary

What you should know

  • A good text is always a text that has been proofread.
  • Writing and proofreading texts have long been inextricably linked.
  • The depth of corrections can be adjusted to fit every need and every budget – no need to do more than what is necessary.
  • A good and mistake-free text speaks for itself; it presents a lively picture and grabs attention.
  • A professional proofreader provides peace of mind – in terms of content, technical aspects as well as language.
  • And, what’s more, well-written and well-researched texts are easier to translate and can be more easily varied and used again in different ways.

Retrospect

The history of proofreading

 
Written texts contain mistakes. Full stop. Sometimes it’s a lack of ability on the part of the author, sometimes mistakes creep in during the layout process and, more often than not, the writing has to be done quickly and the typos add up – especially in today’s digital world. 

What actually is proofreading?

During a proofread, texts are checked for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. The changes and corrections are limited to true mistakes such as incorrect letters, punctuation marks or formatting issues.

Anything more than that is referred to as an edit – this is the Premier League of proofreading.

The pitfalls of proofreading from the beginning of the written word

The first texts were written by hand or carved. Rather than paper, people used clay tablets, for instance the Sumerians in Babylon. That was 3,000 years before the Common Era. Later on came papyrus and leather.

Correcting mistakes was not easy at that time, because the text had to be scratched away. It was easier to write correctly the first time or to simply leave mistakes in.

However, language was not always as set in stone as it is today thanks to modern dictionaries, so different spellings were not necessarily incorrect.

The future of proofreading

As long as texts are written and published, there will be a need for them to be proofread and any errors corrected. The tools themselves can recognise some of the most basic aspects. 

However, only the skill of the human eye is truly reliable and proven – across all linguistically relevant levels. 

Humans can see the incorrect letters and commas, but they also uncover erroneous content and confusing references.  

The result of proofreading is a text that the reader finds appealing because it is coherent and consistent. And it really doesn’t matter how the text was created. Even machine-generated or dictated texts or documents written by artificial intelligence always benefit from human contribution. 

But why is that the case, and why will it remain so? Because humans are the ones who read the texts.

Overview

What is the difference between proofreading and editing?

Even a text that has been proofread can still contain errors, for instance skewed imagery or missing content. The level of work put into a document can be adjusted depending on the requirements of a given text.
An edit always also contains a proofread, which entails finding spelling errors, typos and punctuation errors, as well as obvious grammar mistakes, and correcting them. The result is a text that is formally correct.

How does a correct text look? Really good!

But often it is not enough to have a text that is ‘just’ correct. It also needs to be appealing for the reader and communicate with its target group using the type of language they expect. This can be achieved with editing services.


The Premier League: editing

Editing services always also involve a proofread, but then focus on the content of a text including a stylistic review. During editing, the text is considered as a whole. 

The decisive question and the chief task is whether the text, in its current form, achieves its objective and gets through to the target group. 

The objective is always to convey a message – a call to action or product information – to the readers effectively and appropriately, and without losing anything along the way. 

Editing is the ideal approach for nearly all texts. Why? It comes down to the complex requirements. The text has to be coherent and consistent – in terms of form, orthography and content. And it has to be appropriate for the target group in order to reach them.

Eloquently communicating with your target group

A message contains not only pure information – it also contains emotion. And this is generated using the right forms of expression, the right style and, above all, lively language with imagery and turns of phrase that give your text a little something extra

Editing services can do all that. The information just has to be right. There is no alternative for that in corporate communications


Consistency is king

Content is non-negotiable and ‘one euro’ in a text on page 10, for instance, is worth just as much as ‘€1’ on page 25. Even though each option is correct in itself, this type of difference indicates imprecision in the text. During editing, however, this deviation is uncovered and corrected to ensure consistency.  

The same thing goes for proper nouns, places and other designations that come up multiple times in a document, regardless of how comprehensive it is.

In summary: 

- A proofread is a search for errors. A text is reviewed for formal errors and spelling, punctuation and grammar are corrected where necessary. The result is a text in which everything is written correctly.

- An edit goes a step further and also takes the style and consistency of a text into account. Does it fit the target group and is it consistent in terms of language use, terminology and style? The result is a comprehensively optimised text that meets all of the requirements placed upon it.

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The trained eye

What is a professional edit?

The editor intensively reviews your texts for correct spelling and grammar as well as punctuation and consistency. The objective being that the message reaches your target group clearly and without errors.    
The first step: proofread

For the underlying proofread, the editor primarily checks the following aspects: 

  • Spelling
  • Typography (quotation marks, apostrophes, en dashes and hyphens, etc.)
  • Punctuation
  • Proper word splits

The second step: edit

During the edit, qualified proofreaders then review the text with regard to additional important aspects, including correct grammar. But this also involves terminology (with a glossary), the formal consistency (e.g. capitalisation of headlines, punctuation of bullet lists) and the imagery and expressions used. 

In addition, attention is also paid to the consistent use of terms and factual plausibility. We make stylistic changes with your approval because, generally, we are cautious when making changes to the style and focus more on deviations that are not suitable in the larger context.

Proper gender use: a particular challenge

A current and increasingly important aspect of proofreads in German is the proper use of genders. To this end, we offer an editing service with an emphasis on gender use. We first provide you with consultation on the subject of gender use where we discuss the linguistic options available and how they fit with the specific requirements. 
This ranges from generic masculine terms and the specification of feminine and masculine forms, to the use of gender-neutral expressions such as ‘Mitarbeitende’ (‘employed persons’), through to the graphic adaptation of terms with asterisks, underscore or colons, if and when non-binary genders are to be addressed. 
After the consultation, the ideal approach is determined and realised within the text.
Would you like to know more? Ask us!

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Focus on content

Why is it so difficult to proofread your own texts?

It has happened to everyone: your own texts contain mistakes, but they are hard to catch for some reason, even after reading them multiple times. Is it possible to take an unbiased look at your own texts? Or, better yet, should you have someone else do it for you?

The reason it is easier for authors to overlook errors in their own texts is down to the capabilities of the human brain. And trust in your own abilities.

Many people overlook an obvious spelling mistake even after having read through their text two or three times. For example, you might find ‘uses’ instead of the intended ‘used’. Or the wrong word in your headline. If someone else reads your text, this mistake is immediately apparent. 

The focus is not on finding errors when creating texts

It becomes a bit more difficult to find mistakes in texts that we have written ourselves, because we are already thoroughly familiar with the meaning contained in these texts. We think about what we want to write for a long time, and experiment with different formulations. Looking for errors only draws attention away from the actual task at hand.

How does efficient text creation by concentrating on content work?

When writing, it is important to not let yourself be slowed down by worrying about possible mistakes. Anyone wanting to ensure that their text is correct in terms of its content does research, writes and rewrites – and then asks someone else to read the text.

This person then makes corrections without bias. They recognise the meanings and check whether not only all of the words are correct, but all of the letters as well. And also in the correct order, of course.

Anyone who takes this approach to writing texts can be sure that the new website, flyer or editorial will reach and appeal to its target groups.

And it’s not just about making a text as complicated or challenging as possible. Quite the opposite, in fact: a good text achieves its objective with the appropriate means.

Proofreaders and editors, as your trusted readers, are ‘used’ to finding all the mistakes that an author is unable to find on their own for the reasons mentioned above.

So mistakes don’t matter?

Nevertheless, we prefer to read texts that are free from any errors, and many people exert great effort to write everything correctly. This is a good thing and should definitely remain so. Texts put together with great deal of care and attention to detail are a quality seal on their own. And reading is more than just absorbing meaning. It should also be a pleasure, and the quality of a text is an indication for the readers that someone is speaking their language. In marketing in particular, tailoring your communication to the respective target group is crucial. 


How humans read meaning

When we read a text, we don’t look at each individual word – let alone each individual letter. The reader’s eye and their attention are instead on the lookout for meaning and groups of meaning. 
To find this meaning, the reader’s eye jumps from individual words to groups of words and even phrases. Normally, this enables readers to quickly recognise what the text is about and to understand it. 
Even if these words contain an odd error or two, human readers are able to understand the meaning without any loss of information (even if one word is accidentally written with a capital letter in the middle). 

Of immediate interest

Proofreading digital content – how is it different from proofreading print content?

 

Do you interact with your target group in person, at a trade fair or more likely online? Once that is clear, the next step is the individual implementation of content in print or digital format. The proofreading process is adapted accordingly.

In most cases, the best option for the marketing sector involves a combination of both – content in print and corresponding content for the digital world.

Experienced proofreaders understand the different requirements, and these characteristics are taken into account during the review of spelling and style.

What matters:

  • Do the texts offer answers to relevant questions?
  • Do they cover subjects that excite your customers?
  • Is the text long enough or too long in relation to the content?
  • Is the language level suitable and have genuine signal words been integrated?
  • Do the headline, image and text have the right proportions?

How is digital content read?

Printed pages are traditionally read from left to right, top to bottom. There is a focus on headlines and image captions
A mistake in the headline, for instance, sticks out like a sore thumb, which is why particular care is always taken with these text elements. 
They have to be so perfectly eloquent and fit the image in such a way that the readers get a certain mental image from the headline. And it has to go with the rest of the text. These elements are given top priority, followed by the content. 

Digital is the new normal

In the digital world, people read differently. The structure of a page cannot simply be taken over from the print version. A printed flyer can never become a functional website unless it is adapted first. Some rewriting can also be part of a broader editing service.

Visitors of a website skim the content and gather the information that is important to them. This happens in less than ten seconds. During this brief time, the readers also decide whether the page contains the information they are looking for. If not, they’re gone.

How can editors and proofreaders support content optimisation?

Appropriately highlighted content elements say: ‘You’ve come to the right place!’
Microcopy such as ‘Read more here!’ and ‘Order the newsletter!’ as part of calls to action should, for example, be formulated in such a way that the website visitor actually carries out the desired action.
In addition, for a website with a complex structure and numerous internal links and elements that recur in different versions, the individual documents should be coordinated – a proofreader can also review these aspects, both in terms of information as well as images. 
Now it’s up to you: do you have questions about proofreading and editing? We would be happy to answer them – and we look forward to hearing about your individual requirements.