09 Aug Proofreading Brisbane – local touch, local knowledge
You’re in Brisbane. You’re an SME. You have outsourced the writing of a brochure. You have ordered a print run of 5000 copies. You let an overseas proofreader check it over. They do the work. They confirm the sales messages have no typos or grammatical errors. You print your 5000. For the sake of this scenario, let’s say you’re a tiling company in Nundah… Here’s your typo-free headline:
XYZ Tiles Nundah: the South Side’s Leading Tile Supplier
From a purely proofreading perspective, that headline is fine. It contains no spelling or grammatical errors. The factual error that Nundah is on the north side is not wrong grammatically. And now you are stuck with 5000 useless brochures. This is just one example of why choosing a local Brisbane proofreader can rescue your marketing efforts.
Does your writing have a foreign accent?
If you’re a local business serving a local market, both you and your audience are completely nested within the same local context. A set of common understandings, expectations and experiences. The overseas proofreader is not. This local context extends to how language is used – the local idiom. And no, I am not talking about stereotypical Queenslander slang, I am talking about the subtle ways the use of language can mark you as an outsider. (To get technical, these signs are called shibboleths). Here are two subtle examples that have tripped me up:
- I had a client based in Texas, USA, that was running a competition. In writing the promo, I used the phrase “enter the draw”. To them, “enter the draw” was an Australianism. To their local context, it should have been “enter the drawing”.
- Working for a Melbourne-based client that had a premises in a precinct whose name is very similar to a place in Brisbane. See, when you’re talking about the riverside lifestyle and cultural precinct on the Yarra, that’s Southbank – one word; for the riverside lifestyle and cultural precinct on the Brisbane River, it is South Bank – two words.
Even though the point I’m making here somewhat straddles the line between editing and proofreading, it is still important. Why? Because when you get localisation wrong in business communication, you sound like you don’t have anything in common with your audience. This cuts across one of the key tenets of copywriting: being relatable.
A little about linguistic context
Living and working within any linguistic context for an extended time generally means you have absorbed the distinct way language is used in that area. Between organisations, cities, regions, states, countries and continents, there will be subtle and major differences in written style, the usual sources are:
- Spelling – consider that “Moreton Bay” is actually a typo that was made official: the man it is named after had the surname “Morton”. Some spell checkers will flag one version or the other.
- Terminology – consider that both Brisbane and Vancouver use “TransLink” for their public transport networks. It would be a recipe for confusion for a client with interests in both markets.
- Phrasing – the Brisbane River is often referred to by locals as “the Brown Snake”, whereas in other local contexts a “brown snake” is a specific kind of deadly reptile. In other places in the world, a brown snake simply means “any snake that’s brown”.
- Word choice – consider the amusing regional differences around the word “thongs”.
You know it when you see it
A local proofreader will not only have professional skills, but they’ll be able to apply them to how language is used in your area. They’ll have an eye and an ear for what “sounds foreign” and the knowledge of how to fix it . This is quite a challenge because it is difficult to write a rulebook of what a local idiom contains. The test for whether something sounds right is more usually a reaction to what doesn’t fit; one of those frustrating “you know it when you see it” things.
For this reason, at SASA, our preferred style guide is the one used by the Queensland Government. Now, no style guide is ever comprehensive or perfect. This one is serviceable. So, the reason we use it is not because it is “the best”. Rather, SASA likes this style guide because it is:
- Written specifically for Queensland
- Written by the most prominent organisation in our state, i.e. the Queensland Government
- Used by the most prolific publisher state – again, the Queensland Government
- Freely available online for everyone
- Simple and unfussy.
Like all style guides, it has its quirks (such as how it punctuates bulleted lists), but like all the best style guides, it works! It does the thing that gets to the heart of proofreading: the goal is not perfect scientific accuracy, rather it is instilling conventions that preserve and improve clarity and consistency.
This is important, because – and here’s the shocking secret about proofreading – there is no “official version” of English. Consistency and clarity really are the best we have. Further, an awful lot of good English use comes down to taste and judgement of what is appropriate. In creating marketing comms, the rule of “appropriate” is “will our specific target audience get it?”. You can bend as many rules as you like in the pursuit of being relevant, understandable, persuasive and memorable. And to do that, and coming back to our point, you need to know how the target audience uses English.
It helps to be a local. You have the geographic knowledge. You’re dialled in to colloquial usages. You have shared experiences with your readers. Last, and perhaps crucially, you are available for face-to-face meetings with your clients!
Brisbane businesses, Brisbane proofreaders
What all this boils down to is simple common sense. When you’re a local trying to produce marketing material for locals, doesn’t it make sense to use proofreaders who know the local slant on the language? You want your marketing to have the right “vibe” for your readers, and all sorts of subtle cues in your language can give away the fact that – somewhere along the way – something went awry. Such as someone using textbook perfect English to teleport Nundah to the South Side of a brown snake.