Multiply Your Mistakes 20,000 Fold Without Breaking a Sweat – The Value of Good Proofreading

dana September 9, 2015
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This was my big break.

I was a junior designer at an Atlanta-based graphic design firm when my boss gave me the opportunity to design a brochure to promote enrollment at a college. You see, I was fresh out of design school and hadn’t yet been trusted to single-handedly design a piece of collateral on this scale. I tore into the project with great enthusiasm, first producing some rough layouts for the client to review, then moving on to a finished design. I was quite proud that the client and my boss loved the brochure design. Given final approval from the client, I released the artwork to the printer for production of 20,000 pieces. The final result was beautiful and was shipped to the client for distribution to their prospects, and I had a brochure that would look great in my portfolio. At least I thought this was the case.

It turns out there was a typo that had slipped past everyone. The client, my boss, and me. It wasn’t until one of the recipients of the brochure noticed the error and raised the alarm that we were all clued in. And, this was no small typo…it was a word in a headline…on the front cover! How could this mistake have happened? And now it was 20,000 mistakes. I was so embarrassed. But I was fortunate that my boss, although quite upset, didn’t hold me accountable. Our firm had to absorb the cost of a reprint. It was a hard lesson learned.


Don’t rely on spell-checking software.

Sure, they’re useful for flagging and correcting misspelled words, but  professional proofreaders are  worth their weight in gold. Typos, punctuation and grammatical errors, discontinuity, inconsistencies…these are all things that should be corrected and that a good proofreader will make note of. But more times than not, corners are cut in an attempt to reduce costs and shorten timelines. Brochures are printed, websites go live, audio/visual presentations are made without serious consideration of possible errors. Errors that can have a negative impact on your company’s brand image.


Still not ready to call in a professional?

Here’s some guidance from Daily Writing Tips that will help you be a more effective proofreader.

Concentration is Key

If you’re going to spot mistakes, then you need to concentrate. That means getting rid of distractions and potential interruptions. Switch off the cell phone, turn off the television or radio and stay away from email.

Put It On Paper

People read differently on screen than on paper, so print out a copy of your writing. If you read aloud, your ear might catch errors that your eye may have missed.

Watch Out for Homonyms

Homonyms are words that are spelled or sound alike but have different meanings. Switching accept with except or complement with compliment could be disastrous, so pay attention to them.

Watch Out for Contractions and Apostrophes

People often mix their and they’re, its and it’s, your and you’re and so on. If there is something that can hurt the credibility of your text, it is mistakes like these. Also, remember that the apostrophe is never used to form plurals.

Check the Punctuation

Focusing on the words is good, but do not neglect the punctuation. Pay attention to capitalized words, missing or extra commas, periods used incorrectly and so on.

Read It Backwards or Upside-Down

When writing we usually become blind to our own mistakes since the brain automatically “corrects” wrong words inside sentences. In order to break this pattern you can read the text backwards or upside-down, word by word.

The Devil is in the Details

One little zero makes a  huge difference: Is the acquisition you’re writing about valued at $10,000 or $100,000? What about the population of China: Is it 1.2 million or 1.2 billion? Check the numbers. And don’t forget to call and verify all phone numbers, double check email addresses, physical addresses, URLs and QR codes. Get out your magnifying glass and proofread the footnotes, disclaimers and legal jargon. Sometimes the smallest items can be the most important.

Get Someone Else to Proofread It

After checking all the previous points, do not forget to get a friend to proofread it for you. You will be amazed at the mistakes you’ve missed. A second person will also be in a better position to evaluate whether the sentences make sense or not.

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