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It’s Not Essential to Proofread

The other day I led a business writing class for leaders in a world-class company. Because they were a supportive group, one of them admitted she often doesn't proofread her email. With the need to send out dozens of messages each day, how can a person take time to read through each message before sending it?

But how can a person NOT proofread? When a tiny error can mean hours of damage control, it just isn't smart not to do at least one read-through.

One common error I see is the word not for now, or now for not–a simple one-letter mistake. I made the error purposely in the title of this post. Didn't you think I had lost my mind? How could I possibly say proofreading is not essential?

It was just a little error. Imagine these variations:

  • Merisa is not due for a salary increase. [should have been now]
  • She is not a member of the executive team. [should have been now]
  • He has now completed his probationary period. [should have been not]

A quick read-through would catch those damaging errors. 

Now more than ever, with the huge volume of writing we do, it's essential to proofread.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

2 comments on “It’s Not Essential to Proofread”

  • Why not run a find for ‘now’ and ‘not’ before you send? You can’t do an auto-correct for this but I set auto-correct up in Word and Outlook for other common typos – it’s highly unlikely I’d be using the word ‘manger’ in business writing, for instance, or ‘asses’ – so these I auto-correct to manager and assess respectively!

  • Suzanne, thanks for the good reminder. Please see the comments on my April 10, 2008, post, “A Horror Story in Microsoft Office.” To autocorrect “asses,” you need to insert exceptions such as “encompasses.” Otherwise, you will get new mistakes!

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