Surely there’s no need to hire a real-life person to read through your elegant prose before you hit the publish button? Every program has a spellchecker these days, and most browsers too, so even Facebook foul-ups are a thing of the past.
Well, no. It’s true that the trusty spellchecker will mark up mistakes like wierd (weird) and Mississipi (Mississippi), but what about when you’ve put there instead of their, or it’s when you meant its? It’s all about context and to check that you need a living, pulsating human brain.
Proofreading is especially important for non-native English writers. Without a proofreader, the examples below can and will happen. While that might not matter so much in a Facebook post to your friends, it’s not something you want printed in the media or broadcast on Twitter. Unless you want to become a meme…
1. Schwarzkopf. 40 years ago Schwarzkopf was considering re-branding for the UK market. Thinking that their name was a little hard for English speakers to pronounce, they thought they’d go with a direct translation. Thankfully someone in their UK office advised them against it (a friend’s mother, as it happens). Would you be so keen to use Blackhead products?
2. Wang Cares. Another blast from the past, this time from US computer company, Wang. Again, saved from humiliation by a Brit. Not got it yet? Try reading their slogan in a mock French accent.
3. www.penisland.net and www.therapistinabox.com. An interesting destination and a box no-one wants to open. Or Pen Island and Therapist In A Box. If only someone could have helped them choose better domain names.
4. #susanalbumparty. A recent howler, but already a classic. Unfathomably, news of Susan Boyle’s album release party was not as well received as her PR agency expected.
5. All your base are belong to us. Perhaps the perfect example of when translation into English (from Japanese, in this case) goes wrong. It’s from the 1991 Sega Mega Drive game Zero Wing and the phrase became a meme.
So, think before you publish. At the very least, print out your missive and read it through with a cup of tea and a red pen. You’ll be surprised what you spot. And if you’re about to have 10,000 copies printed, or disseminate your words of wisdom to millions of fans, consider having it proofread professionally – the damage to your reputation could be way more costly.
Written by Rebecca “Ribs” Susiaho