I arrived home one day to find this advertisement on our front door.
It got me thinking how much potential business can be lost due to poor editing.
How are clients going to reach Brian when he didn’t even finish his telephone number?
A copyeditor or professional proofreader would have caught this error — amongst the many others — on this advert. Copyeditors can polish your work and make you sound more credible, potentially bringing you more business.
Typos aren’t just humiliating. According to a BBC News study, spelling mistakes can also cost you millions in lost sales. Their analysis shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.
Here are some spectacular and costly business failures that could have been prevented if the companies and individuals concerned had used a copyeditor or professional proofreading service.
A pinch of what?
In 2010, the Australian publishing company Penguin Group Australia suffered a PR nightmare of epic proportions. The company had to destroy 7,000 copies of The Pasta Bible after a recipe for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto called for “salt and freshly ground black people”.
Penguin also spent thousands of dollars on public relations in order to reassure the public that the misspelling was an unintentional proofreading mistake.
What a mug
Also in 2010, the Parliament Shop in Canberra was embarrassed when they unpacked a delivery of mugs that had been ordered to celebrate US President Barack Obama’s visit.
Staff found the mugs welcomed “Barrack Obama” in very large letters. Fortunately, only 200 of the mugs, which were planned to retail at $10 each, had been produced. And even more fortunately, the president postponed his visit.
It’s etched in stone
This mistake isn’t really marketing, but I’ve had to include it because it’s, well, huge.
If you ever visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., take a close look at Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address on the north wall. It encourages us to think about America’s past, present, and euture. That’s right, euture.
When the overzealous carver made the mistake, it was immediately spotted. But the cost of replacing the wall was too high, so the extra line on the bottom of the capital E was simply filled in. The blunder remains visible despite the attempts to correct it.
A different kind of democracy
In 2006, 170,000 ballots in Ottawa County, Michigan, had to be reprinted after an embarrassing typographical error was found. Instead of describing the election as a public ballot, they had inadvertently left out the letter “L” in one of the six times the word public appeared in the text of the ballot issue. The error came with a $40,000 USD price tag.
A new budget airline
A clerical error in 2006 may have cost Italian airline Alitalia $7.72 million USD after the airline mistakenly advertised a flight from Toronto to Cyprus for $39 instead of $3900. By the time the error was discovered, 2000 tickets had been sold.
A degree in spelling?
Consider this misspelling on Macquarie University’s website.
And this typo printed on Missouri State University tote bags.
They make readers wonder if the universities are credible. Potential students may be concerned the instructors are as low quality as the writing. And they certainly won’t recommend these schools to their friends, making any social media campaigns fall flat.
Attend to your attendants
An oil change business close to my home in Michigan has a sign near their garage door that reads “Please wait for attendent”.
These “attendents” probably think I’m a crazy lady copyeditor because I mention the misspelling. Every. Single. Time.
I’ve thought about using another oil change company but the next closest is a drive across town and it’s more expensive. And, despite their spelling abilities, this company does a great job on my car, even vacuuming the interior.
But think about a first-time customer. What would their first impression of this business be? If they saw this error, would they drive away? Spelling and grammatical errors can be disastrous for a company’s long-term survival.
Hire a copyeditor
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of signs — sometimes commissioned by major retailers — that have glaring errors. Don’t be the laughing-stock of the business world. Let a copyeditor take a look at your marketing efforts before you publish them.
Bartender, pour me another round before I edit
It is quite easy to read right past mistakes. Our brain tricks us into believing what we are reading is correct. It allows us to read what we know we should see on the page, instead of actually reading the text word for word. Psychologists call this process generalisation.
A copyeditor looks at things in a different way and has trained their brain to notice inconsistencies that don’t stand out to other people.
My first day as a receptionist at a veterinarian’s office, I started to hand the doctor’s business card to a client and immediately took it back. The doctor noticed this and questioned me about it later. I answered that his address was incorrect on the card. He’d been open for a year and business cards were one of the first things he had done!
A copyeditor isn’t familiar with what you’ve written, so they don’t run the risk of generalisation.
Use a professional proofreading service
Here’s what a copyeditor will do for you:
- Perform a spellcheck, without spellchecker – computers often miss mistakes with homophones
- Check for grammatical errors – subject/verb agreement, pronoun/antecedent agreement, dangling modifiers
- Check for punctuation errors – proper use of semicolons and placement of commas
- Look for formatting errors – Is Arial 11pt font used in one sentence and 10pt Cambria used in the next?
If you’d like to work with a team who knows how valuable a copyeditor is to your content marketing efforts, contact Lush – The Content Agency. We also offer professional proofreading services.