Why We Need Proofreaders – Errors That Really Matter

As someone who writes, edits and, yes, proofreads for a living, I’ve developed the sort of eye where errors just leap out of the page at me. I find it frustrating, and definitely friends and family do, when one of them gives me a piece of writing to “edit.” After all, they generally just want helpful – and mainly supportive – comments; sympathetic editing, in fact. They are then understandably offended when the first words out of my mouth are along the lines of: “You need a hyphen here,” or “Numbers under 10 should be spelled out.”


Do others experience this? No? Just me, then?

I can see how annoying this can be but the problem is, just like an abandoned candy wrapper left on the floor in an otherwise immaculate room, it’s the one minor fault that stands out and attracts my attention, to such a degree that I can totally fail to appreciate the tidiness and attractiveness of the room as a whole.


Yet, I cannot help myself – I read an excellent article online recently that was totally ruined for me by a glaring typo in the final paragraph. Unfair and irritating, I know; on the other hand, it means to me that the writer didn’t take the time to read through her article, or – preferably – have someone else check it over – before sending it out. Maybe it’s only me (though to be honest, I doubt it) that has such an apparently hypercritical reaction to overlooked errors but it surely does indicate a lack of attention to detail, and that can reflect on one’s view of the writer as a professional.


But even if you can overlook minor errors, and not be judgmental about the person’s professionalism as a result, there are some errors so egregious that they become a joke while, at the same time, begging the questions: “What were they thinking? Did no-one check that/notice that before it was printed on a giant sign/painted on a roadway, etc.? How was that possible?”

See below for some real proofreading fails:










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