Whoops! And Here’s Why Proofreading Is So Important



by Sarah Warlick, content director

statue facepalm

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/

If you’ve read the bbr marketing newsletter that went out in July, you probably noticed something – a glaring typo in the main headline. If you read right past it without noticing anything amiss, don’t feel bad. We did too!

Once we spotted it (after it went out to all our subscribers) we felt the normal shock, horror and desire to sink into the earth that these incidents invariably inspire, but it was too late. It was out there for all to see.

While we’d much prefer to have caught it beforehand and avoided the situation entirely, it’s a great reminder of the importance of careful proofreading. Mistakes are going to happen, and this one illustrates some patterns to be aware of:

    • The most obvious are the easiest to miss. Notice how this typo appeared in big, bold type at the top of the page? (Believe us, this doesn’t alleviate the pain one iota.) That’s a prime spot for mistakes to hide in, oddly, because it’s so front and center. There’s a natural tendency to skip over the biggest, most eye-catching copy on the page as you focus on tiny print in your search for hidden mistakes lurking in the details. The big stuff, well obviously it’s fine. Duh. Why even look?
    • The more pressure you’re under, the more vulnerable you are to errors. When you’re tired, stressed or pressed for time it’s very hard to devote the calm, focused attention necessary to do an adequate proofing job. With two team members on vacation last week, including the chief editor and proofreader, things were extra busy for us as we were preparing the newsletter. It’s not an excuse, by any means, but it does demonstrate how errors are more likely to slip by when you’re under unusual pressure. These are the moments that demand extra time proofreading, no matter how busy you may be.
    • It takes a village. Most people assume that one person is sufficient for proofreading. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. You need several different people to look over content in order to catch all the mistakes, no matter how carefully each one scrutinizes the material. Our brains have an amazing capacity to auto-correct what we see, which means that even blatant errors have a way of getting overlooked. More eyes means a greater chance of spotting those wayward characters. While we had more than one person proof the newsletter, it didn’t get as many reviews as usual and the outcome was unfortunate.

As chagrined as we are, we can be glad that it wasn’t one of these typos that led to truly disastrous results. Just the same, we encourage you to use our mistake as a cautionary tale to prevent your own embarrassing moment.





2 comments on “Whoops! And Here’s Why Proofreading Is So Important

  1. Cindy Hagemann on

    Great article on the importance of proofreading and what a good way to use your own personal experience to tell the story! My mother was a first grade teacher, so I learned early on how to grade papers and see typos that others make. However, I am not good at seeing my own and always try to get help on my own work! Thanks!

    • sarah on

      Thanks for the comment, Cindy! It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? We’re keenly attuned to every missing apostrophe or misplaced character in other things but what we write ourselves, we can only perceive the way we intended it to read. The brain is a merry prankster of the first order.


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