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Proofreading matters – and you can’t rely on spell check

7 simple proofreading tips from RP Copyrighting. I mean Copywriting.


We’ve all done it – fired off an email in haste, only to notice the glaring typo in the subject line after hitting send.

Or maybe you’ve made a quick post on Facebook gushing over your recent “exotic” vacation only to get teased mercilessly about your “erotic” getaway. Sigh.

There’s no doubt spelling mistakes, poor punctuation and typos can cause embarrassment – not to mention the occasional LOL moment. But for businesses, errors in communication can do more than impact the ego – they can impact your bottom line.

A recent study in the UK found that a single spelling mistake on a website can drop online sales by 50 per cent. Read on to see how a few small typos had some big consequences, then check out a few of our favourite proofreading tips below.


Comma chameleons – misplaced punctuation can change things in a big way

Putting a comma in the wrong place can be a doozey: hundreds turn into thousands and thousands turn into millions. Often when such a mix up occurs, businesses can wiggle out of it, but it does mean their credibility, if not their wallets, takes a hit.

 Case in point, in 2006 Alitalia Airlines offered executive-class flights from Toronto to Cyprus for $39, rather than $3,900. A couple thousand folks took advantage before the mistake was corrected, and when the airline tried to cancel the purchases it was a public relations disaster. Alitalia eventually agreed to the price reduction in an effort to protect its reputation, but at an estimated cost of more than $7 million!


No wonder he stopped getting calls . . .

An unfortunate case of a misplaced typographical character noted in The Irish Times cited a medical publication that just came short of libeling a therapist when his occupation was listed as “the rapist.” Yikes!

And remember that little exotic/erotic comment at the top? It was the basis of a gross negligence suit in which Yellow Pages had to pay $19 million in damages to a California travel agency.

While they may not necessarily be libelous, typographical errors and spelling mistakes can play havoc with online marketing campaigns. Spelling errors in email subject lines can result in messages being mistaken for spam or cause customers to unsubscribe from mailing lists.

And did you know that search engines can actually detect poor grammar and spelling issues in websites, resulting in lower rankings for search results? Not to mention that misspellings in keywords and titles can prevent potential clients from finding your products and services. Believe us, proofreading matters.


7 simple tips to improve your proofreading

When it really counts, you may want to bring in the professionals. But even if you decide to go it alone, there are a few things you can do to help keep your copy clean and error-free. Here are a few tried and true methods:

  • Print it out and read it aloud. Reading aloud forces you to slow down and read every word.
  • Read your document backwards. This will highlight misspelled words that you might otherwise just glaze over.
  • Point with your finger to read one word at a time.
  • Have someone else read it.
  • Take a break between writing and re-reading. We recommend sleeping on your draft before proofing.
  • Don’t try to catch everything in one go. Read it for clarity and flow, then read it again looking for typos. Finally, proof it looking at font sizes, additional spaces and general layout. Then read just the headlines and sub-titles.
  • Edit in the morning before the daily grind turns your brain to mush.


Chances are your new proofing skills won’t save you millions, but they may help save your reputation as someone who actually went to school. Either way, it truly does pay to pay attention. Happy proofing!


Nancy Miller
Nancy Miller

Owner and editorial rockstar at Rock.Paper.Copy Writing Solutions

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