At Ceres Talent, we live at the intersection of marketing and recruiting. So, we have seen some brilliantly crafted communication on websites, press releases, resumes and more. We have also seen our share of mistakes. While typos and grammatical errors might not be life-changing, they can tarnish you’re company’s – or your personal – reputation.

When doing any kind of writing, the best we can all hope for is that the discipline we’ve learned over the years will lead us to error-free, brand-forward, high-quality communication that makes our point and makes it well. We strive for perfection by implementing careful editing protocols as part of every communication. But sometimes we fall a little short.*

Here are a few examples of errors The Red Pen missed:

  • A Mizuho Securities trader mistakenly offered 610,000 shares at one yen apiece, instead of one share for 610,000 yens. That doozy of a slip cost the company the equivalent at that time of $225 million. The Nikkei processed the order and refused to reverse it.
  • NASA lost $80 million – a pretty penny in 1962 ($400 million today) – when a missing character in the trajectory code of the Mariner 1 interplanetary probe caused an explosion 293 seconds after takeoff and the craft never had its chance to cruise by Venus.
  • The Valley News, a New Hampshire newspaper, printed and delivered copies with the nameplate “Valley Newss”. Imagine the shame that poor publisher (and all the other copy editors that approved the layouts) felt when that error was discovered.

While we can wince and sympathize with the egg-faced humans responsible for these errors, we must admit some of the bloopers are downright funny. A few lucky souls may be laughing all the way to the bank. Harvard University researchers found that the world’s largest search engine (no names mentioned) profits from mistakes. Parasitic as it may seem, the company earns close to $500 million a year on “typosquattering”, where commonly misspelled URLs for popular websites are purchased and served to unwitting users and, you guessed it, generate a nice chunk of ad revenue for the internet giant.

Since we’re all not so fortunate to profit from the mistakes of others, here are a few tips to avoid such errors in the first place:

  1. Use ALL the tools. Spellcheck isn’t the only player in the game. Run your copy through Grammarly. This handy free online  writing assistant can check your typos and grammar issues, and can even help you with phrasing, tone and organization.
  2. Add a random editor to your regular proofreading queue. Whether it’s a trusted colleague or your mom, select someone who isn’t part of your normal editorial review protocol and isn’t as intimately connected to the content as you are. You’d be surprised what fresh eyes can catch.
  3. Add a checklist to your editing process, including reminders to check names, dates, links and any numerical figures. Use the list as a nice last-minute prompt to check specific items that can easily trip you up.
  4. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to apologize. We can all learn a good lesson from The Valley News, who issued the following apology:  “Readers may have noticed that The Valley News misspelled its own name on the front page of yesterday’s front page. Given that we routinely call on other institutions to hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, let us say for the record: We sure feel silly.”

Use the above tips and you will…still probably make an error or two. But you can recover. Just ask Mizuho, NASA, and The Valley News.

*Just to make sure you are on your toes; we’ve included at least 8 errors in this post. If you can find five or more, email your list to [email protected], and you will be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card (maybe you’ll use it to order a copy of a Turabian, Chicago or AP style manual). Name will be drawn at random on Friday, April 30, 2021.

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