Thursday, August 29, 2013

Proofreading Payback

From’s blog, All Alabama, fans and newscasters criticized cheerleaders at Hoover High School for a banner with a misspelling. Please read Jon Anderson’s account of the story, “Revenge of the Bucs: Hoover students relish media misspelling – ‘Spellcheck this.’” Be sure to read the Editor’s note, too. 

What do you think? Is it proofreading payback (also known as Muphry's Law)?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What to Do About Errors?

In keeping with our monthly theme about how grammatical errors and spelling errors trip you up when you’re reading, let’s talk about what to do when you find errors in someone else’s documents and how to respond to someone’s edit of your documents.

What type of errors distract you?

Errors that drive some of my friends crazy are mixing up advise and advice and using loose when the writer means lose. Two weeks ago I was standing in the security line at the Pittsburgh airport; continual messages displayed on a screen to entertain us while we waited. One message amused me; it read “loosing weight” with Jillian Michaels. I was tempted to take a photo, although I didn’t think the TSA would have allowed it!

How we deal with the mistakes is important, too. In the article, “Grammar Girl Writes Again” in Failure Magazine, Mignon Fogarty was asked, “It must be stressful to perform for an audience of grammar enthusiasts. Do you find readers/listeners looking to catch you in a mistake?”

Her response was “I’m not perfect and everybody thinks it’s fun to catch Grammar Girl in an error, so I get regular criticism—some of which is delivered with a sense of humor and some of which isn’t. If there’s a typo on my Facebook page, for example, I hear about it immediately." 

How do you feel when someone points out your errors?

Can you empathize with Dennis Baron A.K.A. @DrGrammar? He wrote in his blog post for National Grammar Day (March 4), “…what’s true on National Grammar Day is true all year round. Everybody does want to be correct, but nobody wants to be corrected."

Do you want someone to tell you about an error in your document? 

As embarrassing as it is, I want to know. A reader told me about an error (poll vs. pole) in my e-newsletter. I thanked the person because I was grateful. I also added a lighthearted comment, “And I want to be the Proofreading Girl? I may have to rethink that." It's a lot of pressure!

I suggest letting the person know you’re glad he/she pointed out the error to you and thanking the person for his/her correction. If you can add humor, do so. 

Then, do you confess your mistake? I did apologize in the next month’s e-newsletter and gave my reader the credit; it seems only fair.

What about when you find an error? Do you feel responsible or even compelled to tell the person? Is it similar to telling someone they have spinach in his/her teeth?

Occasionally, I have told people about misspellings on handouts and in LinkedIn profiles, and I add that I hope they don’t mind my telling them. I generally don’t tell people about grammatical errors unless they ask for my advice because sometimes it’s a matter of writing style.

How do you tell someone when he or she has an error? Please share your stories.

What do you think is an appropriate response to someone’s unsolicited edit of your documents? Does it depend on the type of error?

Judy Beaver, The Office Pro
Founder of National Proofreading Day
Mark your calendars for March 8!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Proofread to Avoid Subject Line Errors

Can you identify with this quotation by Grammar Girl in an interview she had in Failure Magazine? “A great story, message, or work history can easily be overlooked if the reader is distracted by errors.”

I agree with Grammar Girl (A.K.A. Mignon Fogarty); many people get distracted by errors.

@LBelle1 tweeted: “When reading some e-mails, I become so distracted by my proofreading that I miss the message altogether.” How true—often the distraction causes you to miss the message! And kudos to @LBelle1 for using the correct altogether. Click here to see the difference between altogether and all together.

Errors will destroy your marketing efforts if the reader doesn’t open your e-mail because the subject line has a typo. Carelessness is costly.

Be sure to read subject lines because errors are easily overlooked, especially if the incorrect word is a word. Spell check may not flag it as an error.

Some e-mails I’ve received with subject line typos include the following:

  • Grief Assitance and Support
  • A Role Model or All of Us!

What about you? Will you open an e-mail if the subject line has a typo?

Judy Beaver

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Is Proofreading So Difficult?

Is proofreading difficult because we just don’t see errors, especially our own? 

My husband and I were watching “Brain Games” on National Geographic Channel. (Yes, we need to get a life!) On the episode, “Seeing Is Believing,” the host, Jason Silva, had people read a sentence. No one saw the error, although I’m proud to say I did! Then, Jason had them read the sentence aloud, and still no one found the double the.

Making a case that finding mistakes is a difficult task, Debra Hart May, the author of Proofreading Plain and Simple, states: “Gestalt psychologists were the first to discover that our minds tend to see things not as they are, but as our minds think they should be.” Are we doomed not to catch errors?

To further support the difficulty to find errors, May quotes Carolyn Bloomer from her book, Principles of Visual Perception:

“This strong tendency of the mind to ‘correct’ stimuli…explains why proofreading is a difficult task: Your mental ‘correcting’ tends to tune out the very errors you are looking for.”

Okay, proofreading isn’t easy. Even the professionals miss mistakes! However, you need to do it! Your professional image depends on it.

My favorite proofreading advice is to read the copy aloud. Reading aloud forces you to slow down to read each word. Using your finger as a guide can help, too.

Are you thinking, if the people on “Brain Games” didn’t see the second the when they read the sentence aloud, how will I? Technology can help; Microsoft Word flags repeated words.

Here’s another tip. Create a proofreading checklist. Checklists help people avoid errors, according to Atul Gawande the author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. Pilots, doctors, and many other professionals use them to prevent errors. Why not use a checklist during the proofreading process to remind you to look for common errors, too?

Are you aware of some of the errors you make? For example, do you often type by for my? Form for from? You for your? Add those commonly mistyped words to your proofreading checklist.

An easy way to find these errors is to use CTRL+F to search for the common errors you make. The wrong word is a word, just not the right word. These errors are not easy to find, so use technology to help you find them.

Three more items to include in your proofreading checklist are

  • Check titles and headings. People tend to skip these words and focus only on paragraphs. If a category heading on your resume has a typo, will you get an interview? 
  • Read subject lines. If there’s a typo in your subject line, will the reader open your e-mail? 
  • Verify dates and times. Does the day of the week correspond to the date? Do the date and year make sense? Check times for meetings and workshops. Double-checking dates and times saves you time by not having to send a correction and by not having to read everyone’s e-mail correcting you.

Even though you may find proofreading to be a difficult and boring task, it’s a necessary evil if you want to enhance your professional image. While proofreading errors aren’t a life or death situation as medical or aviation errors might be, errors may be the reason for not getting the interview or for not getting the opportunity to present your sales pitch. A proofreading checklist could help guide you through the process.

What will you add to your proofreading checklist? What do you do to ensure you don’t have an error?

Judy Beaver

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Easily Distracted by Errors?

People make more errors when they’re distracted. No surprise, right?

Alternatively, what about being distracted by errors? When you read a book, an article, or an e-mail, do you get distracted or stuck when you see an error?

This month we’ll be talking about how people might judge you if you have an error in an e-mail, a report, a presentation, or your resume. Check back during the month to see what’s happening; I’ll provide proofreading tips, present inspirational words about errors (no kidding!), and show the impact of errors. Join the conversation, offer your proofreading tips, and share your images and stories.

What was the last thing you read that had a grammar error or typo? Were you surprised? I'd love to hear from you.

Judy Beaver, The Office Pro
Founder of National Proofreading Day