A Plea for Proofreading
Increasingly, I’ve noticed an astounding number of really bad—and really avoidable—typos. They’re everywhere: in emails, newspapers, books, menus, social media sites, wedding invitations, and even store awnings!
In the past few weeks alone, I’ve seen some truly egregious errors.
In a lovely café, on the beautiful wall-mounted menu, the word “potato” was missing a “t.”
In the headline of an article on a well-known website, Facebook’s founder’s name was noted as Mark “Zuckberg.”
At a gala fundraising benefit, a missing zero made an accomplishment significantly less impressive—taking participation from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how many mistakes I’ve seen as I’ve culled through the hundreds of emailed resume submissions we receive. While we receive typo-free, well-written inquiries from many applicants, some have failed to capitalize their own names; others have submitted letters saying “[fill in name of company here,]” and one recent applicant touted her skills saying she had “excell ence in editing and proofreading” (note the extra space in “excellence!”).
Where are the proofreaders??!!
Sadly, many have been downsized. When I worked in publishing in the early 90s, there were people on staff whose sole job was proofreading. That’s after the editors had their turns. We all know how the internet and social media have impacted traditional media. Last week the iconic New York Daily News cut its staff in half. Lead times have been slashed. News is posted in real time, leaving little time for proofing. (On the positive side, it is generally easy to make corrections when someone does notice the errors.)
As a member of Generation X, when I was a high school student, I had to handwrite all my papers and then type the final versions on an electric typewriter. Mistakes required Wite-Out®or correction tape. And sometimes even ripping out the whole page and starting over.
Today, it is easier than ever to avoid typos; thanks to autocorrect, you often don’t even need to use the backspace or delete key.
The rampant use of social media, texting, and emojis has undoubtedly accustomed people to dashing things off quickly without checking them over. Everyone is so busy—too busy. Clearly, we’ve become too dependent on autocorrect and forget to reread. Or maybe smartphones have made us impatient and lazy. Or maybe we are multi-tasking too much. Or maybe all the above.
Proofread. I’m begging you.
It doesn’t matter if you are a high-powered executive, an entrepreneur starting a business, a student, a blogger, or a job seeker. Just proofread.
Needless to say, nobody is perfect. Typos slip through, even with multiple proofs and multiple proofreaders. (For all I know, you will find a typo in this very piece, despite my best efforts.) But a simple, quick spellcheck will eliminate most of them.
Here’s another handy tip: read your piece backwards, which helps prevent you from glossing over missing words. And if it is an important document, ask a colleague or friend to review it.
To this day, my all-time favorite typo is one that I saw on a defunct restaurant. On its professionally-printed awning, it proudly announced, “we served great food.” A self-fulfilling prophecy if I ever saw one!
By Gail Katz Dukas
Gail Katz Dukas is the Chief Operating Officer of Dukas Linden Public Relations. Before helping to launch DLPR, she was a professional copywriter.