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Proofreaders and Thieves: Check Everything!

Recently in the National Geographic Magazine blog David Brindley confessed an embarrassing error in the May issue of National Geographic. In his post, "Slips Happen," he admitted that the thoroughly researched and beautifully mapped story "Arctic Landgrab" contained one ugly error: the misspelling on page 112 of Alaska as Alaksa.

Since the map that contained the egregious error contained only nine words, the misspelling was all the more noticeable.

And in my Sunday Seattle Times this week, I read about the thief who got caught trying to use a forged cashier's check for a shipment of 50 cell phones. How did he slip up? The forged check spelled cashier's as cahier's.

Let's learn from the missteps of proofreaders and thieves–and check everything: proper names, locations, little words, big words, subject lines, headings, headers, footers, paragraphs, bullet points, closings, signature blocks, dates, and even maps and checks.

No doubt, both National Geo and the man "buying" cell phones have learned their lessons!

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

7 comments on “Proofreaders and Thieves: Check Everything!”

  • This is the first post I’ve read on this site but it certainly won’t be the last!

    A couple of example that made me smile:
    One of our local hockey clubs used to advertise that they had a “thieving junior section”
    A large housebuilder that put up a huge sign advertising “collage walk” on the site of an old college!

  • Hi, Lynn,

    I’ve shown your blog to my students at Missouri State University many times. This post will help them see the value of careful proofreading. Thanks!

    Tim Hadley
    Missouri State University
    Springfield, Missouri

  • There is a restaurant in Brooklyn advertising their Braised Buffalo Crap – I think they meant carp.



  • Tim, thanks for spreading the word. I am glad you find this blog helpful to your students.

    Anne, I’m speechless!

  • When performing a straight or blind reading, the proofreader will be supplied with proofs only and not the original typescript. In this case, the proofreader cannot know whether the original typescript has been correctly reproduced along with the editor’s corrections. Her role is simply to check the proofs for content, marking up any clear errors in spelling, punctuation, and so on, that she may find.

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