Do I really need a proofreader if I edit my own work?

Published on August 24th, 2016

It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, the sheer volume of content a modern business needs to create can be overwhelming. It’s not simply a question of quantity, however; the quality of content you’re able to produce is becoming increasingly important.

Aside from your brand’s reputation being on the line with everything that you publish, quality determines how well it performs in search engines, social networks and other channels. This brings us to the all-important question: can you edit your own work or do you need a proofreader?


What does a proofreader actually do?

If you’ve never used a proofreader before, you may be thinking of someone who simply checks for spelling and grammatical mistakes, which is an important part of the job description, but proofreading services actually cover a much larger role.

The importance of style guides

As businesses find themselves creating more content, a consistent style guide is essential. Your brand is made up of many people but it needs to have a single voice that consumers can identify with – every piece of content you publish should sound like it came from the same source.

A style guide ensures terminology, grammar conventions, formatting and style are similar enough to achieve this. It won’t make every article read as though it was written by the same person, but they’ll feel like they came from one organisation with a clear, unified voice and consistent ideas.

A proofreader can put this consistency across in everything that you publish and can even help you to create a style guide, if you don’t already have one.

Proofreading after translation

With the Internet making business a global prospect for everyone, translation has become a fundamental part of the content process. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to translate a style guide or tone of voice into another language – something that goes beyond typical translation services.

To get around this issue, it pays to have mother-tongue proofreaders in your target language handling the editing process. This way, they can make sure your style guide and brand voice come across in your translated content with the same authority as the original, so even in foreign-speaking markets, your content connects with like-minded audiences, no matter the language.

The role of brand voice and quality in digital marketing

Every piece of content you produce is a marketing tool. On the digital side of things, this means it needs to perform on the right channels. At the very least, your content needs to rank in search engines for every target language you have.

This starts with choosing the right keywords in each language and fitting them into your content naturally. If you force these keywords in, your content will be penalised by search engines and your readers will quickly lose interest. With a native proofreader, you can guarantee these keywords (and suitable variations) are both consistent and natural throughout your content.

To earn quality links and boost your search ranking further, you also need to become a resource other publishers trust for information. In Google talk, this is called “trust and authority”.

Accuracy is important for this because it’s difficult to trust content that gets the language basics wrong. However, authority takes more time to earn by getting links from high-quality sites and getting your own content published elsewhere. A proofreader won’t do all of this for you, but working with one will give you a distinct advantage in creating a brand voice that people can trust.

What’s wrong with self-editing my content?

Self-editing is a tricky subject – one that affects every business in the modern days of content marketing. As a general rule, you should never have someone edit his or her own work. It’s very difficult to create a single, coherent piece from start to finish and a writer is too close to his or her own work to see things objectively.

This is why proofreaders and editors exist in the first place: to give that objective barrier and a fresh set of eyes. This doesn’t only apply to writing either – it’s the same for graphic designers, architects and most creative types of work.

One solution is to have your own in-house editing team handle proofreading, style guides and other editing essentials. However, you may also find your team is too close to your business and content ideas to make objective decisions. This can be especially true for conceptual ideas like titles and the angle your content takes.

It’s a question of balance and finding the right workflow to ensure quality. If that means handling some of the editing process in-house and only calling on a proofreader for the more demanding stuff (e.g. foreign language proofreading), then that’s absolutely fine.

Posted on: August 24th, 2016