Spot the misstake


I’ve just had a heartstopping moment. Not the end of the world, but shocking to someone who prides herself on being accurate with words and web content.

If you write your own copy, do you ask someone else to look at it before you publish? You should. We all should: no-one is immune from word blindness. The problem is that when we’ve written something, we know what we meant to write, and we assume that’s what we have in fact written.

The heartstopper was when a kind person pointed out that my telephone number on my website was wrong. It’s on every page. It’s animated, so that you just click on it to ring me, and it was wrong. It had been there for about six months and I never noticed. (It’s correct now.)

If it’s any comfort I can give you another shocking example. I ran a basic writing course for the BBC for years. I used a wonderful quotation from an article about style written by an Oxford philosopher I admired. The quotation was in every manual I gave out. For some reason, I suddenly spotted that I had been spelling his name wrong, for years.

So we all need a second pair of eyes.

One of the points I make in my book Writing for the Web is that we should distinguish between editing and proofreading. They are two different processes and yet we often run them together as “proofing” or “checking”.

When you edit, you are on the side of the writer. You are reading through the text to make sure that the ideas flow easily, that there is no redundant or confusing information and that the piece achieves what the writer wants. You are concerned with the content.

When you proofread, you’re not really interested in the content. You assume it’s all right. Your job is to spot mistakes. You’ve metaphorically changed sides and you’re now a critic, determined to find something wrong. And you usually will.

Well, did you spot it?

If you’d like me to edit or proofread a document, script, article or post, please contact me.