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The case of the exploding probe: what’s the cost of NOT proofreading and copyediting?

Julie Blake - Monday, February 19, 2018

You’ve lined up a blog series for the next few months, or perhaps you’re getting ready to launch your fully integrated campaign of white papers, social media and marketing materials. The content is fresh and fantastic, and it looks ready to go. Before you hit that ‘publish’ button, think for a moment – has it gone through a copyediting and proofreading stage?

 At Oxford Content Company we know all too well the excitement of getting great material out into the world, but a comprehensive copyedit and a proofread are essential parts of the content process. Overlooking these activities could lead to anything from minor frustrations to damaging catastrophes and terrible costs –as the following stories illustrate.

The case of the exploding probe

A typo could be a missing letter, the wrong letter, or even a misplaced semicolon. In itself it seems tiny – the kind of thing that could easily be overlooked in development, and therefore negligible when it comes to being read by your customers.

Consider then the forehead-slapping calamity experienced by NASA, which in 1962 launched America’s first interplanetary probe: Mariner 1. The craft was supposed to pay a neighbourly visit to Venus. Instead, it exploded a few minutes after lift-off. The cause of this major mishap was a single missing hyphen from the coding. The absent dash cost the space pioneers a cool $80m.

Your plans for your campaign may be more earthbound, but misinformation or confusion caused by print and digital materials will cost money to rectify, so it’s worth factoring in a copyediting and proofreading stage from the get-go.

The case of the woeful winners

Of course, costs aren’t only limited to cash. It takes time to put together a well-crafted, thoughtful piece of content. And when that content is published with errors, it will take even more time to fix them.

Spare a thought for the car dealership in Roswell, New Mexico, which in 2007 dreamt up the innovative marketing strategy of sending out 50,000 scratch cards to win new customers. One of the cards would have won its lucky recipient $1,000 in cash. However, thanks to a mistake in production, it was quickly discovered by delighted scratchers that every single card offered the big prize. Unable to pay out the $50m total, the business instead sent each winner a $5 Walmart gift certificate.

Not only did this mean a big own goal for the dealership, it also represented a lot of wasted time. Copyediting and proofreading might involve a little time ahead of publication, but it will ensure there isn’t extensive back-pedalling further down the road when you’d rather have your mind on other important matters.

The case of the humiliated holiday-planners

If you’re very unlucky, a tiny mistake in content could change the entire meaning of what you are selling.

One particular travel agent based in California, for instance, once found the unfunny side of a typographical error when it advertised ‘exotic destinations’ in the Yellow Pages. The advert found them a whole new audience – but not one they were hoping to attract. You can imagine the company’s surprise when on inspecting the advert, they found that they were selling not ‘exotic’, but ‘erotic’ destinations…

Mistakes like these are amusing to read about, but an error that misrepresents your business could be extremely damaging to your reputation. Even if a typo turns your carefully worded sentence into nothing more than gobbledegook, or you simply have a small grammatical error, it can bring about a decline in trust from customers. After all, if you appear to be unprofessional with your content, then there would be little to stop them thinking your products – or integrity – might also be less than reliable.

Copyediting and proofreading should always be part of a content-creation process. Failure to include them can lead to high costs in money, time and reputation.

Oxford Content Company provides a fantastic copyediting and proofreading service that will ensure your content is perfect for publication. If you like, we can take on the content creation itself, and even manage your campaign strategy.

Whether you’re planning interplanetary travel, or simply looking to tell people about your brilliant business, contact us today for a chat about what we can offer.