Tag Archives | proofreading

Spot the deliberate mitsake

JUGGLINGIn normal reading, you look at the overall shape of the word, not each individual letter. It’s why words written in ALL CAPS are harder to read. For example, the word “juggling” looks completely different in lower case, as shown. Readers usually fix their eyes on the print only a few times on each line, and take in the the words between these points with their peripheral vision. Accuracy decreases the further they stray from the fixation point. Proofreaders have to read more slowly and fix their eyes on almost every word in order to proofread accurately.

Did you spot the mitsake? Post in the comments below.

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Have you seen my boobs? Lessons about the importance of proofreading.

Proofreading is important, because people judge you by the accuracy of your written communications. Here are my favourite examples of when writing has gone horribly wrong.

Daily Mail article

Britain’s biggest-selling hill-walking magazine apologised yesterday after publishing a route that would have led climbers off the edge of a cliff.

The February edition of Trail gave advice to walkers caught in foul weather and poor visibility on how to get off 4,406ft Ben Nevis – Britain’s tallest peak – safely. If readers had followed the directions they would have plunged from the Scottish mountain’s north face, which has claimed a number of lives.

Editor Guy Proctor said he was ‘gutted’ by the error but thought readers would pick it up. He said the article was written by a very experienced hillwalker from Loch Lomond and the mistake had occurred during the production process. ‘Somewhere in the journey to press, our route on Ben Nevis has lost the first of two bearings needed to get off the summit safely,’ he said.

The Mountaineering Council for Scotland has issued an alert on its website warning hillwalkers to be aware of the mistake.

Daily Mail article

A scientist whose trillion-dollar swindle was exposed by a spelling mistake was jailed for six years yesterday. [Name deleted] authenticated $2.5 trillion (£1.5 trillion) worth of US Treasury bonds he knew to be fake. The scam unravelled when two men tried to cash $25 million (£15 million) worth of the bonds at a Canadian bank. After spotting they were marked ‘dollar’ rather than ‘dollars’, experts discovered [the bonds] had been run off on a inkjet printer not invented when they were supposedly issued in 1934.

US magazine ‘Easy Sky Diving’

Please make the following correction. On page 8 line 7, ‘state zip code’ should read ‘pull rip cord’.

Sunday Express

‘On page 35 of this week’s section 3 we feature a recipe for lemon tart. Readers should note that, while the method is correct, the ingredients should include three lemons.’

Bromley News Shopper

A spelling gaffe which caused embarrassment and amusement at Premiership newcomers Crystal Palace passed at least one man by – the club’s manager. Iain Dowie was unaware of the mistake as he posed for cameras at the Eagles’ Beckenham training ground, even though he was wearing one of the replica shirts showing his team’s names as Chrystal Palace. When News Shopper pointed out the error at the press call last Thursday, Palace boss Dowie said ‘What are you journalists like? Talk about attention to detail. I think you want to get out a bit more.’

Ooh la la!

Years ago, I was working on a jewellery brochure. The brief was to make it romantic. The front cover picture was a head-and-shoulders shot of a lingerie-wearing model with tousled hair (remember the Gossard gypsy bra ads? She looked a bit like that). A hunky male model stood behind her, gently fastening a necklace around her neck.

To go with the theme, it was agreed that all the page headings should be in French, one of the world’s most romantic languages. Trouble is, I went on holiday and left my team to get the brochure typeset and printed. But it turned out no-one else in the department could speak French, and they didn’t bother to get it checked.

Later, I received a letter from a school-teacher saying she’d used the brochure in class, because it contained about 20 mistakes. Zut alors!

Freemans catalogue

Do you remember the Silentnight bed adverts that featured a hippo and a duck? Well, we used to sell the cuddly stuffed hippo and duck, and someone – not me, I promise! – wrote this description: ‘Henry Hippo is 9 1/2 inches high and comes in his own striped pyjamas.’

Adult education leaflet

‘CERTIFICSATE OF PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH’

Door drop leaflet

‘PROFFESSIONAL IRONING SERVICES’

Hairdresser

‘QUALITY AND EXCELLANCE’

When I was a child I saw my father reading the newspaper on the kitchen table and pointing out all the printing errors. He told me that when he was growing up in India his father paid him one Anna (small coin) for every mistake he found. That must have been the moment I realised you could make money from proofreading! And now I’m one of those annoying people who can spot a mistake at 50 paces. I can walk through an office full of PCs, notice an error on a distant screen and say ‘that’s wrong!’

It’s just as easy to get it right as it is to get it wrong. So let me know if you’d like me to cast my eagle eyes over the next piece of text you are about to print or upload, and I’ll make sure it’s absolutely 100% completely right.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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There are times

when you really should be more careful with your proofreading.

I tried to contact them to let them know, but I don’t plan to phone the US from the UK, there was no email address and the contact form wasn’t working (in Safari). Strangely (?), the web developer’s name was also missing from the footer.

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14 ways to proofread your copy

There seems to be an annoying little gremlin that delights in creeping into your copy and adding mistakes in the hope that you won’t notice. And you can’t trust spell-cheque [sic].

Years ago, I was tasked to write a ‘romantic’ jewellery leaflet. I wrote the headings in French but then went on holiday only to find the typesetter had introduced 20 errors. I only found out when I received a letter from a teacher who’d used the leaflet in her French class.

More recently, I reviewed a 110-page website and produced a report totalling over 9,000 words. Instead of copying-and-pasting my new copy, the client rekeyed some of it and introduced a whole load of new errors. I had to check everything again, and the next site review was another 3,000 words.

Here are various ways to double-check that everything is OK before you publish your carefully crafted text:

1. Leave enough time

In addition to writing time, allow dedicated time for proofreading, editing and rewriting. The best work goes through several iterations before it’s finished.

2. Sleep on it and read your work again the next day

You’ll be amazed what you find when you look at it again with fresh eyes.

3. Read it aloud

This is a good tip anyway, as it ensures your wording flows as well as it should.

4. Read each line backwards

By reading backwards, you lose the sense of the text and check it word-by-word instead.

5. Get a friend to read it aloud while you check the text

I used to use this technique when I worked in an insurance company. We had to ‘call over’ whole tables of figures to each other, to make sure there were no errors. For example, this paragraph would start: “Number five full-stop space capital g get a friend to read it…”

6. Read it really s-l-o-w-l-y

Don’t rush. Proofreading properly takes time.

7. Take regular breaks so you are always reading with fresh eyes

It’s easy to get tired when proofreading, so do it in short chunks of time interspersed with some other activity.

8. Ensure no interruptions so you can concentrate

Find a quiet place where you can focus on the job. It’s impossible to proofread well with the radio blaring in the background, ringing phones or colleagues distracting you with questions.

9. Never proofread your own work

If you wrote the text yourself, you see what you expect to be there rather than what is actually there. If possible, ask someone else to read it for you.

10. Print it out

Screens shine light into your eyes while ink on paper is light reflected off the page. That’s why your eye muscles get more tired more easily reading on screen, and it’s therefore easier to miss mistakes.

11. Reformat the document and read it as plain text

If you are proofreading text in place on a layout, such as a PDF document, some errors may be harder to spot. Save the file in another format, such as a Word or plain text file, and mistakes are more likely to become obvious.

12. Have one person proofread it, make the changes, then have another person proofread it again

For projects that are really important to get right, it’s worth having the job proofread more than once, including by at least one person who’s never seen the text before.

13. Check house style is consistent

Proofreading is not just about spelling and grammar. You also want to watch out for consistency of details such as names e.g. Mr John Smith or John Smith or J Smith, and UK/US variations e.g. organisation or organization.

14. Check page numbering, contents page, headlines, pull quotes and picture captions

The body text is not the only thing to check. It’s easy to miss things in margins and graphics so do a separate check to ensure they are accurate, make sense, and appear in the right place. For example, I worked on a newsletter that went through five stages. It was fine but a picture was accidentally switched on the artwork. Also, I edited a brochure that was repaginated at the last minute to include an extra page, so the images no longer made sense with the copy.

It’s easily to make mistakes. But it’s also easy to get it right! I hope the above tips will help you avoid that embarrassment. Or is it embarassment? *Goes off to check.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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My favourite mitsakes

US magazine ‘Easy Sky Diving’

Please make the following correction. On page 8 line 7, ‘state zip code’ should read ‘pull rip cord’.

Sunday Express

On page 35 of this week’s section 3 we feature a recipe for lemon tart. Readers should note that, while the method is correct, the ingredients should include three lemons.

Campaigning website 


I am the elected Chair Person who speaks on behalf of the 42 families in Scotland who, for the last 5 years, have been seeking compensation from [name deleted] for gross mis-spelling.

Daily Mail


Britain’s biggest-selling hillwalking magazine apologised yesterday after publishing a route that would have led climbers off the edge of a cliff.
The February edition of Trail gave advice to walkers caught in foul weather and poor visibility on how to get off 4,406ft Ben Nevis – Britain’s tallest peak – safely. If readers had followed the directions they would have plunged from the Scottish mountain’s north face, which has claimed a number of lives.
Editor Guy Proctor said he was ‘gutted’ by the error but thought readers would pick it up. He said the article was written by a very experienced hillwalker from Loch Lomond and the mistake had occurred during the production process. ‘Somewhere in the journey to press, our route on Ben Nevis has lost the first of two bearings needed to get off the summit safely,’ he said.
The Mountaineering Council for Scotland has issued an alert on its website warning hillwalkers to be aware of the mistake.

Daily Mail 


A scientist whose trillion-dollar swindle was exposed by a spelling mistake was jailed for six years yesterday. [Name deleted] authenticated $2.5 trillion (£1.5 trillion) worth of US Treasury bonds he knew to be fake.
The scam unravelled when two men tried to cash $25 million (£15 million) worth of the bonds at a Canadian bank. After spotting they were marked ‘dollar’ rather than ‘dollars’, experts discovered [the bonds] had been run off on a inkjet printer not invented when they were supposedly issued in 1934.

Daily Mail 

This school advert for two classroom assistants is littered with so many mistakes that at times it is hard to understand. There are 17 obvious errors – without counting missing full stops and rogue capital letters – including calling for ‘sutiably’ qualified candidates with a GCSE in ‘Eglish’ to make a ‘differnce’ in children’s lives. To make matters worse, it was checked by a staff member at [name deleted] primary school before publication.

Bromley News Shopper
A spelling gaffe which caused embarrassment and amusement at Premiership newcomers Crystal Palace passed at least one man by – the club’s manager. Iain Dowie was unaware of the mistake as he posed for cameras at the Eagles’ Beckenham training ground, even though he was wearing one of the replica shirts showing his team’s names as Chrystal Palace. When New Shopper pointed out the error at the press call last Thursday, Palace boss Dowie said ‘What are you journalists like? Talk about attention to detail. I think you want to get out a bit more.’

San Francisco Chronicle 

A colourful mosaic gracing the entrance of Livermore’s new library is of a genre known as naïve art because of its whimsical design and childlike nature. Maybe that explains why 11 of the 175 names and words on the piece are mis-spelled – from ‘Eisten’ and ‘Shakespere’ to ‘Van Gough’ and ‘Michaelangelo’. The $40,000 project will now cost the city a few thousand more because it must pay the artist to fly from her Miami home and correct the mistakes.

Door drop leaflet
‘PROFFESSIONAL IRONING SERVICES’

Cat charity
‘OUR FURY FRIENDS’

Hairdresser
‘QUALITY AND EXCELLANCE’

Catalogue
‘A SUPERB DIGITAL C*CK’

Adult education leaflet
‘CERTIFICSATE OF PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH’

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