"Looks good to me. Let’s send it."

I have always had an eye for detail. Especially when it comes to spelling. Or, rather, misspelling. Too many times have I come across absolute "clangers" when browsing an online newspaper or other website.

Does anybody else share my incredulity at the frequency at which significant typos appear?

I am sympathetic, though. Journalists might be a dying breed, and quick content seems to be the norm, so I don’t think many human proofreaders are employed any more.

But sometimes even the spell check function doesn't seem to have been employed. I mean, some of those misspellings can be horrendous!

One day back in April, I was flicking uninterestedly through a trade newspaper in the company lunchroom. As I turned a page, my brain registered that something was wrong on the previous page. I remember thinking "surely not!"

I turned back the page, and there, sure enough, in large red capitals was the headline of a full-page advertisement trumpeting "WE SPECIALISE IN WESBITES FOR NZ TRADESPEOPLE."

I checked through the copy to see if there was anything such as "Did you notice our deliberate spelling error?"


Pure and simple. A spelling mistake in the headline of a full page advertisement.

I contacted the editor of the publication to offer my very reasonable services to ensure that before they say ‘let’s publish’, future issues would be free of spelling errors - and there were plenty more, trust me on that one.

No answer.

If the publisher had engaged me, I would have held them up as an exemplary client, acknowledging the need for help after being advised of such an error. It didn't feel right to threaten them with publication in my blog if they didn't. However, in the interests of better writing - and more work for me - perhaps I should start doing that to prospective clients...

In the words of another potential customer: "Sorry, no we aren't interested. We have a very tight budget and we do our best! But good luck with it..."

I say good luck to them!

In the words of one of my advisors commenting on the subject of proofreading, "you get what you pay for".

Another example. I received an email newsletter from a major political party a couple of months ago. Spelling error in the title: they used "on going" instead of the word "ongoing". I transferred their newsletter into a Word document, ran my eye over the writing, and used Track Changes to make corrections and comment boxes to make recommendations in relation to style and consistency. I sent them an email and attached the revised document to demonstrate how a copy-editor could lift the quality of their writing, and all for less than the price of a ticket for one of their breakfast meetings. (Note: I’m not cheap. The price of their tickets makes you think how seriously you want to attend the meeting, put it that way.)

Have I heard back from the party after an introduction letter and a follow-up email?


Could bad spelling lose an election?

Maybe. Why Some People Think a Typo Cost Clinton the Election

Maybe not. Maybe just egg on the face. Irish suburb gains international recognition thanks to hilarious South African election campaign typo (By the way, see if you can find a typo in that Irish Post article. There's at least one. Glasshouses and stones.)

If you were leader of a political party, would you be willing to take the risk that poor-quality writing might derail your party's showing at the next election, or would you want to be sure that everything you wrote was of the highest quality and reflected your brand?

What about your company’s next proposal document, or your next big report?

Or, if you're a student, your thesis or dissertation?

Are you willing to take the risk that your reader will forgive you your occasional mistakes? I mean, you know you're not a master of the English language, but then nobody is these days, are they? And you've come this far without outside help.

Final question: what if the person reading your proposal just happens to be one of those slightly annoying people who place high importance on good-quality writing, and your writing is the only thing that separates your proposal from somebody else's?

If you were the judge, whose proposal would you choose?

Talk to me before you publish, submit, or click "send" for your next document. I can help you lift the quality of your writing to the next level.

Even if you don't contact me, please find a colleague to proofread your document before you submit it. In the interests of good writing.


On the subject of glasshouses and stones, if you can find a misspelling in my blog posts, please contact me. I am contemplating inserting the occasional typical misspelling, both as an insurance policy for my posts and as a means of giving out 20% discounts to the first reader that identifies such a typo. I don't believe I have misspelled anything so far. 

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