When spell-check was invented as a word-processing feature in the 1980s, businesses subsequently laid off proofreaders. Yes, that feature catches obvious misspellings, but there are some jobs that machines cannot completely replace. Proofreading is one of them. As you can see by the pictures I posted, the proof is in the pudding. Let’s explore the reasons proofreading will never be an obsolete job:
Typos might get you sued. I listed this reason first and foremost because it’s the most crucial one: spelling errors and typos can bring you to court. True story. A live website had one letter off in a sentence, and that one letter caused the word to morph into a racial slur. The business got hate mail behind the mistake, and the media company/site creator had to refund the owner’s money for the time the accidental slur was posted. The owner talked of suing the marketing company. They profusely apologized and persuaded the owner not to take legal action. However, I’m sure the company still gets backlash over that awful mistake – and that was about ten years ago.
And we also know that sometimes dates are wrong on ads or the wording is unclear. The customer tries to redeem the offer, and the company weakly admits to it being a printing mistake. It makes for disappointed customers, and also some may go as far as threatening to sue if their demands are not met. After all, it was the company’s mistake, not theirs. Something as minute as the wrong date for a sale deadline, or a huge loophole in an offer can anger your customers, or worse, send you to court. Proofreaders do damage control for the company, and minimize these instances. They work in tandem with copywriters to ensure that the company’s marketing messages are accurate, clear, and appropriate.
Homonyms! Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently. You have “see/sea,” the infamous “their, there, and they’re,” and so on. They indeed are spelled correctly in many instances, so spell-check, I ain’t mad at ya (poetic license). But sometimes, copywriters use the wrong word that sounds like the word they intended to use. For example, I saw a graphics company once who advertised printed “stationary” (see below). That’s a bike that doesn’t move. They needed “stationery.” Only trained professionals – proofreaders – can weed out those embarrassing mistakes.
It ruins the company’s image. Another true story: a cleaning service came to my house, looked around, and gave me an estimate. The manager left a brochure and her business card. I read the brochure, and mistakes leapt out at me, like startled frogs. Thus, I didn’t hire this cleaning service. Their job is paying attention to detail, and sadly, they showed me they can’t do that with their marketing material. Why would I want them missing the details in detailing my home?
It’s not just misspellings and typos for nouns that hurt a company’s image. Misspelling the customer’s name is a big turn-off too. I have discarded many direct mail solicitations without hesitation because my name was misspelled. And even though my name is traditionally male, I am female. Mail addressed to me with “Mr.” as a salutation goes in the recycle bin as well. In summation, proofreaders are not just there to ensure that material is grammatically correct. They are quality assurance people. They also note if the spacing is off, an image’s resolution isn’t the clearest, scope out incorrect dates for offers, as I mentioned before etc. It’s a negative slippery slope: A business ruins its image with sloppy communication, and sales suffer, as you can see by my anecdote.
I listed 3 reasons that proofreading is crucial for businesses. Can you think of more? What are some of the most outrageous typos and misspellings you have seen businesses make? I open the floor to you.