Oops! I made a mitake.

I’ve noticed an abundance of errors in public-space advertising lately, and I don’t know if that is because I’m getting older/more pedantic, spending too much time in airports looking around bored or is there a problem with the quality of modern proofreading.

Do you know what this symbol means?     λ

How about this one?    δ

The ability to proofread is a bit like driving, we all think we’re good at it, deep down we all know we’re probably not that good, and it was a long time ago that we actually some put effort into learning the skills (if ever). I admit that formal proofreading training is something not seen that often, and I have no idea if it’s even taught in marketing, languages or any further studies classes that require editorial skills. It should be but I have a bad feeling…and increasing proof.


Here’s an intro to proofreading and editorial mark-up symbols


An example recently spotted:


















But how about if English isn’t your first language and you are commissioning work to be localised or transliterated? No excuse, sorry.


If anything surely you put more effort into ensuring that something you cannot personally sign-off is accurate in context and meaning – simply changing the words from, for example, German to English is not enough if the idiosyncrasies make all your efforts gibberish or meaningless to a native speaker (logically your target audience).


Here is an example seen in another airport:











As with the earlier example it doesn’t matter that it is English in India – unless the copywriter speaks Latin I don’t think they meant to leave in the placeholder ‘lorum ipsum’.


And it is not just text – there are plenty of opportunities for errors in imagery to happen, so ensure your proofreading plans include checking quality, meaning and relevance of your imagery/graphics as well.


Using agencies to create content, both visual or written, is not an opportunity to pass the blame either. Your agencies WILL at some point make a mistake and I can recall many examples of having to go back to the art director or copywriter to point out errors, including factual errors, not just the more obvious spelling errors or omissions. The review process should always be part of the client-agency work process. Both teams should use a checklist to ensure this happens.

In an age of increasing instant messaging, emoji’s and l33t-speak (look it up – here’s a link) it doesn’t matter that the audience is communicating peer-to-peer in an adapted, modern style; your brand and the formal communications you put forward need to reflect a professional, consistent and engaging tone. Especially if it’s in 3-foot high letters.


Otherwise all the effort of customer experience planning, proposition development and message crafting, each serious tasks, is simply wasted effort.


All people will remember is the error.


Or worse, who made it.



PS: Yes I checked and re-checked this article for errors. But you’ll probably find something!


2 Replies to “Oops! I made a mitake.”

  1. Good article – and to me the P.S. felt like a challenge 🙂

    So (and I’m chancing this without pre-verifying with Google) your statement, “The ability to proofreading…” should that not read, “The ability to proofread…”?

    Having been your agency for a few years, my motivation may have been higher than the average reader.


    1. What mistake, no idea what you’re talking about. Hope you took a screengrab 😉
      10 points to the best account director I ever had!

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