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Last Line of Defense – Why Proofreading is Crucial in Financial Comms

Sandy Austin 27 May 2022
financial content marketing

Proofreading is your last chance to make a great first impression with clients and prospects.

Early in my writing career, I worked for a small, entrepreneurial firm that produced financial newsletters – lots and lots of them. Our client roster read like a “Who’s Who” of the investment world.

One Friday, after a particularly painful error had been discovered on the front page of a client newsletter, the company’s operations manager called a staff meeting at which he played a scene from the Civil War movie Gettysburg. In the scene, a Union officer addresses his troops on the importance of the role they were about to play in an upcoming battle – an event that would become known in history books as the Battle of Little Round Top. In this battle, his battalion served as the “flank” — the body of troops used to protect a position or overwhelm an opponent by attacking from the sides of the battlefield.

That day, the flank our manager referred to was our three-person proofreading team. In his words, our proofreaders were the last line of defense, the final set of eyes, the flank that would determine our success and reputation in the marketplace.

Proofreading your financial content – the essential last step

In our social-media-driven world, where texting, tweeting, sharing, and posting are the preferred methods of communication, it seems like many conventions of written communication – syntax, grammar, spelling, and punctuation – have been pushed aside in favor of speed and expediency.

Today, quality control is often left to auto-correct and app-generated spelling and grammar checkers. While these tools may ease the writing process in a general sense, they can’t take the place of an experienced, focused, and trained human eye.

If proofreading isn’t already the essential “last step” in your written communication process, consider adding this valuable service. Errors — even just a misplaced letter or number — distract readers from the message you are trying to convey. Worse, errors undermine the credibility of your content and, by association, your firm’s brand and reputation.

Consider the infamous typo created in 2005 by one of Japan’s largest brokerage firms, Mizuho Financial Group Inc. When listing a new stock on the Tokyo exchange, it entered the trade as selling 610,000 shares for one yen each instead of the intended 610,000 yen per share. When all was said and done the company claimed a one-day loss exceeding $225 million — not to mention the public humiliation.

Still not convinced? Here are three additional thoughts in favor of making professional proofreading services your flank — your last and best line of defense.

1. High-quality content sells.

Whether you are producing fund commentaries, financial reports, or website content, a well-written, error-free product will serve you well. An informal online survey conducted by website services researcher Website Planet found that the visitor “bounce rate”– a visitor’s tendency to leave the site quickly – was 85% higher for sites with multiple errors versus sites that were error-free. Further, when flagged, this metric can also negatively impact a site’s ranking in Google searches. This research suggests that errors can not only create a significant opportunity cost in terms of the immediate loss of prospects, but they can also lead to fewer prospects over time.

2. Proofing reflects your commitment to excellence.

Professional proofreaders typically have years of industry experience to bring to your projects.

They understand the investment concepts underlying the content, as well as the specialized language, and can cut through jargon to ensure the message is clear and accurate for all audiences. (Imagine, for instance, what might happen if the common investing phrase “past performance does not guarantee future results” was printed as “past performance does guarantee future results”?)

Experienced proofreaders have a well-rounded approach to their work and understand the importance of proper sourcing of references, ensuring your content reflects your commitment to honesty and professional integrity.

3. Proofing ensures your branding and style are visible in your print and digital deliverables.

Professional proofreaders have expertise in following standard style guidelines, such as AP and The Chicago Manual of Style. Importantly, they also are attuned to individual client-style preferences and strive to ensure your in-house style and brand parameters are represented in your written products. Use of capitalization, hyphens, commas, fonts, colors, logo placement and presentation, as well as product and service names, are particular to your corporate identity.

Inconsistent application of style in a single document — e.g., Fund and fund, small-cap equity and small cap equity, Manager and manager, Lowe’s and Lowes, Staples and Staple — signals carelessness to the reader.

Proofreading is your last chance to make a great first impression with clients and prospects.

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more and receive assistance and insight from one of our communications or content experts.