This is part 12 in our Copy Matters series.
We’re coming down the end of our Copy Matters series and we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the one issue that plagues church copy: mistakes. Typos, spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, wonky style—it can all contribute to ruining otherwise good copy. You must proofread your copy. Someone must proofread your copy (it usually works better to have someone besides the writer proofread it. Preferably multiple someones.
A novel approach we’ve heard about is the volunteer proofreading ministry at Granger Community Church near South Bend, Ind. (Yes, not only do they have Kem Meyer of Less Clutter. Less Noise., but they have a proofreading ministry. Coincidence? Doubtful.) We talked with the team’s founder, Jami Ruth, who is now the promotions director at Granger.
How did you start a proofreading ministry?
Jami Ruth: I was a volunteer when I started the proofreading team. As an attendee of the church, I would sit down and be distracted by the typos on print pieces. So I started proofing the weekly program and other print pieces after the weekend and sending the edits to the staff. As a result, they started sending me the print pieces before printing. I then tapped the shoulders of a few friends within the church who also worked in communications, marketing, etc. We continued to tap shoulders of friends and then made it an official team (listed where all volunteer opportunities are listed).
How does it work?
Jami: It’s an email based team. Anything we need proofed, web pages, print pieces, whatever, we email out to a proofing team. They operate under our communication principles/guidelines/checklists from our communications manual and we also ask them to give us feedback on how the message makes them feel, how it can be perceived to a guest, etc. We let everyone know that they will get one or two things a week to proof and if they have the time/margin to proof it and reply, great. If one week, they don’t have the time, no worries.
We send everything out to about 25 people. We want to make sure we hear back from at least three to four. Typically we hear back from about 10 per project. This is so helpful especially when you hear the same type of feedback from more than one person. Typically we try to give people 24-48 hours to proof. There are times though where we need something turned around in three hours so we’ll email the team asking if anyone has the margin. Typically we’ll even hear back from a couple people on short notice. We have a general guideline that we have to have at least three sets of eyes on all pieces. So, if for some reason, we don’t get that through the proofing team, we have some people on staff who are great proofreaders (not on the communications team) that we have them review as well.
Is it an official part of your comm process, or is it more for other ministries that desperately need it?
Jami: It’s officially part of the communications process. Nothing goes online or to the printer without going through our proofing team.
Every church has great copy disciplinarians like Jami. Maybe your church should consider organizing them into a volunteer proofing team.
- Check out the full Copy Matters series.
- Or get those resources and more in our ebook, Getting Started in Church Communication: Copy Matters. It’s a guide to writing and editing for church communicators.