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True Proofreading Stories

  • Writer's pictureRoss Edwards


I have a daily Google Alert set to send me articles containing either the word "proofread," "misspell," or "typo." So I regularly see some really bad examples of badly edited (or simply un-proofread) Internet postings.

But the one I received this morning was so confusing I was sure I was just missing the joke.

It started innocently enough, with a typical news article about a misspelled traffic sign. By now, I've read hundreds of these, and I usually take the news as evidence for either some poor copy editor slipping up or for the evils of central planning -- whichever suits that day's mood or philosophical bent.

This one, though, I actually had to check the author's other posts to make sure this one hadn't been meant as satire, but the author's other posts are nearly as indecipherable as this one.

First off, the article points out that the sign misspelled "Recreation" as "Recrecation," but the author totally misses the misspelling of "Department" as "Deptartment" above.

The article itself doesn't get any better, with confusing word choices like, "Department of Transportation? Extra just like the Department of Corrections." At first, I took "Extra" as a Generation Y or Z colloquialism -- something I'd question while copyediting but still be ready to accept as informal speech.

And, while the second paragraph is equally rough, the last sentence misquotes the sign that's pictured right above it.

Appropriately, the article ends with a string of copy I couldn't even begin to decipher. If you can figure out what the author intended in paragraph three -- "You’d assume the parents in cost of automobiles would have 'auto' appropriate" -- please tell me!

Of course, I'm pretty sure this article was originally written in some language other than English, then sent through a translating app. Unfortunately, this shows our apps aren't anywhere near Star Trek universal translator levels.

The moral of the story? Proofreading errors aren't ideal, but they're nothing compared to straight-up editing mistakes. And, if you want to use your copy in multiple languages, either hire a real human to translate or send the app-translated copy to a real human to copy edit.

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