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True Proofreading Stories

  • Writer's pictureRoss Edwards

This Is Not a Pantry Staple

I'll just skip past all the other mistakes in this Australian real estate listing and get right to the mildly pornographic bit. Stop now if that might offend you.

Stay out of the pantry! Someone's had a wank in there.

CIA Map of Australia
By United States Central Intelligence Agency - CIA World Factbook

On the other hand, if you read it differently, maybe you're supposed to provide your own -- making such a pantry a delightful selling point. It all depends on how you read it, I guess.

Actually, thinking about it, I don't think I can skip past the other copyediting and proofreading mistakes. Here's how the ad originally read:

"Less than 3km from the City and 4.5 km from the beach!

As soon as you arrive at this beautifully completed home, you’ll be awestruck at its finishing's and immaculate attention-to-detail. Step inside to the traditional hallway, past the guest suite and alluring staircase and down to the open living, kitchen and dining space. The contemporary kitchen area is complete with lux stone bench tops, modern stainless steel appliances and loads of storage plus wank in pantry.”

  1. Spacing issue in sentence 1: There's no universal rule that makes it wrong to have either a space between the unit and measurement or no space. You need to be consistent, however -- especially within the same document. This type of inconsistency makes your writing look sloppy, and would be fixed by a good proofreader.

  2. That line break after the first sentence doesn't look right to me. Typical style would be to either indent the next paragraph or add an empty line space between the paragraphs. This formatting makes it look like an inadvertent line break. Plus, I don't think there's really a need for such a small ad to have multiple paragraphs. I think a good copyeditor would point this out.

  3. Those apostrophes look way off -- like there's a space before and after each one. Is there a font issue there? A copyeditor who also checks for design issues might find this.

  4. Apostrophes don't make nouns plural. The word "finishing's" shouldn't have one. Any proofreader would mark that.

  5. Random hyphenation: "attention-to-detail" shouldn't have them, and a good proofreader will take them out.

  6. I'd certainly question the spelling of "lux" here. "Lux" is a term used to describe lighting, but the writer here seems to mean "deluxe." In that case, the word should be "luxe." This might be either a proofreading or copyediting issue.

  7. Then, if the writer wanted "wank in" to be "walk in," it should be hyphenated since that's a compound adjective for "pantry."

  8. The third sentence looks a little awkward (though not necessarily incorrect) to me. The phrase "Step inside to" should probably be just "Step inside." Plus, the sentence could do with some strategic comma-tizing. Personally, I think the Oxford (or "serial" or "series" or "Harvard") comma removes a lot of potential misreadings -- so I use it in my own writing and encourage clients to do the same. As a copyeditor, I'd rewrite that sentence as, "Step inside the traditional hallway, past the guest suite and alluring staircase, and down to the open living, kitchen, and dining space." This places each noun in its own clause ("step" with "hallway," "past" with "suite" and "staircase," etc.) and clarifies a question of whether the kitchen and dining space are one and the same (if they actually are -- I'd have to check with the author on that one).

The lesson? If you want your words to make a strong first impression and make the sale, hire a copyeditor!

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