The World Needs More Proofreaders

Ad Fail!

Ad Fail!

I work as a free­lance trans­la­tor, copy­ed­i­tor and proof­reader.

Peo­ple are usu­ally famil­iar with the con­cept of trans­lat­ing and edit­ing. A trans­la­tor, well, trans­late text from a source-language to a target-language, and a copy­ed­i­tor makes sure the infor­ma­tion is con­veyed properly.

Proof­read­ing, on the other hand, is some­what of a mys­te­ri­ous task to most people.

Basi­cally, proof­read­ers detect and cor­rect production-errors of text or art. They cor­rect spelling and gram­mat­i­cal mis­takes, research proper ter­mi­nol­ogy to ensure con­sis­tency and style, etc. They also look at the big pic­ture to make sure every­thing makes sense.

And trust me, with­out proof­read­ers, the world would be a messy—albeit funnier—place.

Along with trans­lat­ing and edit­ing mate­ri­als, I do a fair share of proof­read­ing. I usu­ally proof trans­la­tions, man­u­scripts, research papers, but also adver­tise­ments, brochures, reports, etc. Proof­read­ing is a pretty demand­ing task because it is the last stage of pro­duc­tion before publication—you are the last pair of eyes on the work.

Every writer or designer needs to be proof­read, no mat­ter how skilled, how expe­ri­enced, how knowl­edge­able. A sec­ond pair of eyes on text or print is cru­cial. For instance, even though I proof myself care­fully after writ­ing each blog arti­cle, I am sure a few typos or mis­takes creep in—and occa­sion­ally, my friends in the field point them out to me (and yes, I am grate­ful for that!). Proof­ing your own writ­ing is incred­i­bly hard—you are blind to your own typos.

I catch funny typos all the time for my clients. For instance, “pubic rela­tions” instead of “pub­lic rela­tions” (ooops!) or “peo­ple who are death or hard of hear­ing” instead of peo­ple who are deaf or hard of hear­ing” (oops again!), “deli­cious Chi­nese dump­ings” instead of “Chi­nese dumplings”, etc.

Let me just say my clients are usu­ally very happy when I spot and cor­rect these typos.

But like I said, proof­read­ing is also about look­ing at the big pic­ture, not just sin­gle words or sen­tences. And look at what I spot­ted on the win­dow of Swarovski Crys­tal (a famous jew­ellery store sell­ing lux­ury prod­ucts) in Bayshore Shop­ping Mall:

Some­one failed geog­ra­phy!” I imme­di­ately said, laughing.

The cap­tion (no pic­ture, I didn’t want the employ­ees to think I was going to steal jew­ellery!) was talk­ing about some­one visit “Inca tem­ples” in Mex­ico. Okay, I know it’s a piece of trivia that I hap­pen to know because we trav­eled in Latin Amer­ica, but the Inca empire was cen­tered in Peru, thou­sands of kilo­me­ters from Mex­ico. Mex­ico was the heart of Mayan and Aztec civilizations—nothing to do with the Incas. Any­way, I found it pretty funny that a major inter­na­tional com­pany like Swarovski could make such a basic cul­tural faux-pas in its adver­tis­ing cam­paign and that no one had caught it before print.

Swarovski’s excuse on Twit­ter was pretty lame:

But hey, if you are a proof­reader, here is your chance: send your resume to Swarovski!

Note: I proofed this arti­cle like five times. And I am sure a typo or two creep in.

Update: May 23, 2013 Walked by the store at the Rideau Cen­tre and… ta-da, the map was changed! I like to think it’s because of me, but the brand never really acknowl­edged the mistake.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Hi Zhu,

    I worked with a part­ner in trns­la­tion– proof­ing; I was the bet­ter writer and trans­la­tor and she the bet­ter proofer so we com­ple­mented each other well.
    I found proof­ing to be more stren­u­ous than trans­la­tion itself.
    Great find for that ad!!

    • The key is to find some­one with com­ple­men­tary skills, must have been a great match! I can see you as a copy­writer and translator 😉

  2. Whoa, this actu­ally hap­pened? I agree, that’s a lame excuse. And no, Mex­ico is not the same as South Amer­ica (or Latin Amer­ica, for that mat­ter), the same way as USA is not the same as North Amer­ica. I just find it weird that some­times, peo­ple who work in adver­tis­ing are paid big bucks just to pro­duce *ehem* like this.

  3. This reminds me of my time as a med­ical tran­scrip­tionst. When you type oper­a­tive reports, it usu­ally starts with “The patient was prepped and draped”. A com­mon typo would be “The patient was prepped and raped”. Scary typo.

    We were warned not catch that one, though 😀

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