It’s been estimated that businesses lose millions of dollars each year as a result of typos.
When I first started out in marketing, I would be offended to receive anything from a graphic designer or a printer with spelling or grammatical errors. As I matured in my marketing career, I learned that as a creative, you can become blind to errors, and you need a second set of what I call Eagle Eyes. This principle applies to everything.
Using a second set of eyes to catch typos is just the bare minimum. It was my responsibility as a marketing director to review for accuracy everything received on a client’s behalf. But, and this is imperative, it’s also the client’s responsibility to have a system in place to review documents and files before they go to print or get published online.
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Accuracy is especially important when it comes to price lists, instructions, technical data, warranties, and more. When errors are missed, it can be costly to reprint documents and signage or make things right with customers.
Regarding proofreading and editing, this is one area where you don’t need drama in the office. We’re not talking about Batman vs. Superman. Proofreaders and editors are teammates, but their roles are different.
Editing is a prescriptive action. Editors go deep. They make changes and suggestions to improve writing and to ensure information is arranged so it produces its intended effect.
Proofreading is more like an order-taking activity. Proofreaders will sift the details. The proofing role is to correct surface errors, much like studios fix blemishes on high school graduation photos for the yearbook. I strongly recommend that every company find its best speller/grammarian to be part of its internal team of Eagle Eyes.
Internal systems should also include a technical review when there is technical information involved. The knowledge sets of an ad agency or marketing firm are not the same as a chemist’s or scientist’s.
Everyone’s writing has errors or opportunities for improvement. Once you have worked on a writing project for so long, you can become blind to things. When you first start reviewing what you wrote, you may catch egregious errors, but the more you review the more your brain identifies with “the way it is” and you stop seeing mistakes. This is why you need an internal system.
Occasionally, you may see typos in a magazine or newspaper headline, the largest letters on the page. How does this happen? The proofreader probably did the text and someone else at the last minute came up with a “better headline” that wasn’t double-checked. Oops.
Publicly traded companies need to include the CFO in proofreading. Mistakes in quarterly announcements will not only reflect poorly on all involved but also undermine confidence in the team.
In this era of Yelp and class-action lawsuits, you can’t afford to publish inaccurate prices or specials. One airline lost $7.2 million due to a pricing error. In 2005, a Japanese securities firm got bit by a typo that cost it $340 million.
Small businesses here in the Northland may not be juggling with those kinds of numbers, but mistakes — including a misplaced decimal point online — can hurt your reputation.
Editing and proofing are a shared responsibility. We’re all in this together. But real money can be saved when you and your company employ Eagle Eyes.
Machelle Lind is owner of Leaderly Marketing Growth Strategies in Duluth.