I was delighted to get some proofreading work my way this week. It’s one of my favourite jobs. The writing is all there, the words and voice are already the customer’s own, and all I have to do is buff it up, and make it the most beautiful version it can be.
If you’re not confident with your writing, it makes sense to have someone else look it over, and make sure it reflects the professional image you want to put out there – but.even if you’re confident in your spelling, grammar and ability to construct nicely-flowing prose, it’s always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes read it over for you, because it’s the little mistakes that can have your piece remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Here are a few examples of how things can go wrong if you miss the smallest detail.
Definitely not a new Police Department
When I was working for North Yorkshire Police (not directly fighting crime though – more info here), a Chief Inspector from the 999 Control Room was mortified when I noticed he’d missed a vital letter “L” from his out of office autoreply – signing off as “Head of Pubic Access”. A degree of panic followed , as he checked whether he’d received any emails from the Chief Constable.
The Wicked Bible
A Bible printed in 1631, during the reign of Charles I, carried a terrific misprint (or was it?) in the list of Ten Commandments. Buried there between “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not kill” is the instruction “Thou shalt commit adultery”. I like to think this was a cheeky joke by the original print setter – but Charles I didn’t see the funny side, because when the mistake was finally discovered (over a year later) he ordered that all 1000 copies be recalled and burnt. A few slipped through the net, though, and in 2015 one of these “Wicked Bibles” sold for over £30,000 at Bonhams.
Su’s Alternative Lifestyle Party
Who could forget when Susan Boyle released an album in 2012, and her PR team decided to create some buzz with a hashtag on Twitter? I can only assume this was done in haste, because the one they decided to use was #susanalbumparty. The ensuing Twitterstorm of mirth and merriment led to a speedy change, to the far more appropriate #SusanBoylesAlbumParty (it’s always a good idea to use caps in a hashtag!) – but this one has got to go down in history as one of the most disastrous proofread failures in PR.
So please, get someone to read your most important pieces of work for you before you put them out there. They may notice something that passed you by on every one of those two dozen re-readings you’ve given it – and it may be the most important. I’d love help. Think of it as an insurance policy against having your own #susanalbumparty