When you see one mistake, you’ll usually find others nearby. I always tell people this in my writing and sub-editing workshops, and yet this observation applies to far more than just proofreading. It can, for example, apply to online shopping.
As an old curmudgeon who likes to do everything the hard way, I did not take to online shopping easily. But the pandemic forced me to get used to it – especially when I realised most stores are pretty good about shipping products the day after you place the order.
So when I ordered a sandwich maker from David Jones and received the confirmation email that had a big fat typo staring me in the face, I tried to ignore the sinking feeling that came over me (hey, I like my grilled cheese sandwiches).
You see, to me a typo isn’t just a typo – it’s a sign that people just don’t care enough, which usually means there are going to be other mistakes. But surely, I tried to console myself, I was being paranoid. This is David Jones, after all – a store I’ve known and fetishised all my life. Maybe a typo is just a typo. Perhaps I will still be able to make a grilled cheese sandwich before the week was out.
But it wasn’t, and I didn’t.
Sure enough, the first store I ordered from that had a glaring typo in its confirmation email (don’t get me started on the headline that didn’t know whether or not to be in sentence or title case: Confirming your Order!) was also the first that didn’t ship my order promptly. Instead, three days later, I received an email saying they still hadn’t shipped it. Oh, and it still had the same typo as the confirmation email.
(The typo appeared in this sorrowful call to action: Click here for the most update to date delivery timeframes. I don’t know what worried me more – the typo or their use of “click here”, which should never be used.)
You could argue I’m just writing this to vent in a first-world way about my lack of grilled cheese sandwiches, and you’d probably be right (for those who are worried about my welfare, I did receive my beloved sandwich maker 13 days later).
You could also argue typos are, to some degree, inevitable – and you’d be right about that as well. I’ve seen typos slip past even the best editors – and yet that doesn’t make those slippery suckers (I’m talking about the roaches, not the editors) any less forgivable. Think of typos as being like cockroaches in a restaurant: it might be impossible to get rid of them entirely, but the more of them there are, the queasier you feel.
But my rant’s gist is this: if you get in the habit of checking your copy enough times to make sure it’s clean, you’ll not only create a better impression for your customers and colleagues, you’ll also get in the habit of checking everything you do.
After all, good writing is a habit: either you do it well all the time or you’re not likely to do it well at all. Most people think it’s about talent, but what’s more important is having the right mindset and a strong work ethic. And yes, after climbing onto my high horse, I am paranoid a typo might be lurking somewhere in this article.
PS If you have any good grilled cheese recipes, please leave them in the comments section.