Proofreading: pedantry is everything

I advertise this site through the likes of Google AdWords. Most of the interest generated is for the services that we offer. But occasionally, someone will email me out of the blue asking whether we’re recruiting, either on a permanent or freelance basis, and offering their own services.

Given the services we offer, I expect these latter emails to be flawless—if you can’t get your own, short emails right, then what confidence do I have that you can do the same for one of our clients?

I recently received such a request, consisting of six lines of content, together with a salutation and valediction.  Below were the errors I picked up:

  • The Dear Sir/Madam did not come with a corresponding Yours faithfully.  Harsh in today’s less formal world, but a tradition that should be upheld, for the time being, at least.
  • Proofreader was sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not.
  • The Oxford comma was used in one instance, but not in another.
  • The lady used quotation marks around words not warranting them, much like an annoying person might sign visually in a bar conversation.  E.g. “[you] would, naturally, take a ‘cut'”.
  • A spaced, single hyphen had been used instead of an em dash before a separated clause.

I politely pointed out some of these issues to the lady, that she might be more successful in looking for other work.  She refuted many of them, the worst defence being that her keyboard didn’t do em dashes.  (Yes it does: ALT+0151.)

Now some of the issues I raised may sound pedantic.  But given the subject matter, pedantry is essential.  Our reputation is founded on attention to detail, picking up issues that our clients don’t spot but which their clients may smart at.

Posted by Dan, 6 February, 2010 under Life

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