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Your Choice: Proofread or Shrink in Embarrassment

Yesterday I received two "Oops" emails within 20 minutes.

At 4:15 p.m. I received a message that began like this:

Dear Lynn,

Please note: The earlier version of this email along with the March "Xxxxx" had a few errors, which have been corrected. To view the updated "Xxxxx," click here.

We would like to send out a big apology to Yyyyyyy for not giving the proper credit and acknowledgment for their ongoing support of our association.Yyyyyyy is our March chapter meeting sponsor.

At 4:35 p.m. I received an email with this subject line: "OOopsie! Corrections Too Important to Leave Uncorrected!" The message continued:

Super oops!

Please note: The big, newsy missive that just arrived in your inbox has one ERROR so significant we're breaking one of our most important rules. The rule that we NEVER, never EVER email you more often than just the once monthly newsletter. Please forgive this duplication, but note corrected event times and locations on one very special date below.

What went wrong yesterday, the first Tuesday in March? People sent out their monthly mass mailing–each to hundreds if not thousands of readers–before proofreading thoroughly.

It happens to all of us. But what would we rather do? Proofread a third or fourth time, or squeeze our heads in embarrassment and send out another Oops message?

I suggest this for any huge mailing: Proofread. Proofread again. Have someone else proofread. Then proofread again. Make sure at least two of those rounds pay attention to dates, times, and other details–not just the words and punctuation.

Goood luck!

Please note: I caught the typo in the line above. I just left it for fun. 

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.

2 comments on “Your Choice: Proofread or Shrink in Embarrassment”

  • Great point about proofreading to avoid sending “oops” emails.

    As a music lover, I’m familiar with the advice, play through mistakes as if you hadn’t made them. Don’t draw attention by flinching or saying “oops.”

    I love that advice.

    When a consultant recently followed up her newsletter with an “oops” and profuse apologies about a typo, I unsubscribed. I hadn’t noticed the typo. But her professions to normally be above that sort of mistake were really offputting to me.

    Do you think sometimes, in certain cases where the errors are not about facts, it is better not to call attention to one’s typos?


  • Hi, Joanne. Yes, it is wise to ignore the typos and tiny errors we make. Typically our readers don’t even see them, or they ignore them if they do.

    Only if the error causes problems–for example, an incorrect date or a missing essential fact–should we call attention to the oversight.

    Thanks for making the point.


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