Small businesses, especially start-ups, need to make a good first impression. That’s what advertising is all about. Sometimes small businesses advertise using door-to-door flyers, and frequently they have websites that customers can visit. The minute somebody lands on your website, they expect it to be professional; therefore, you can’t have any errors.
“But I rely on spellcheck,” you reply. Don’t. Microsoft Word’s spellcheck is a great place to start, but that’s all it is—a beginning. If you want perfect copy, you need somebody to read your work word by word. Artificial intelligence is not smart enough to replace human editors. There are all kinds of things that your spellcheck will not pick up. For example, you may want to emphasize the fact that your company is just getting off the ground. So you say that you had your “big lunch” two months ago except you meant to say “big launch.” Big mistake! Customers will not have confidence in your product if they see those kinds of glaring typos on your website even if what you are selling has nothing to do with English or grammar.
Good editors not only find and correct errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation; they also address appropriate word usage. Sometimes we pick an inappropriate word when another word would be better, and your editor will recommend the optimal choice (e.g., if you say that there are a large amount of people in the room, your editor will change that to a large number of people in the room.). In addition, editors look for misspellings that the spellcheck rarely picks up such as spelling two words that are really one word and vice versa (e.g., if you write “snow bank,” your editor will change that to snowbank. If you say lightbulb, he or she will recommend splitting that into two words.).
Editors read your work line by line to make sure that it makes sense, that it is clear, consistent, and concise. Canadians and British writers often spell most words using the spelling from their country but often accidentally introduce American spelling, which needs to be revised. Editors frequently use style manuals to make sure that all your punctuation is the same throughout a document. Ditto for spelling. The word okay can be spelled as such, or it could be spelled as OK. Both are correct, but different style manuals recommend different spellings. Likewise for certain dictionaries. A good editor will rely on a particular style guide, according to the client’s preference, and will make spelling decisions based on a particular dictionary. By using a style guide, you can be sure that your editor takes your document, whether it is one page or 300 pages, and ensures that you always use serial commas; you always use commas after independent clauses; and you always use commas in between coordinating conjunctions. Is that confusing? Don’t worry about it. That’s why you need an editor!
Make your website and your promotional material as professional as possible. Hire a good editor so that you can go about the business of selling, and leave the grammatical mechanics to someone else.