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The Importance of English Usage and Proofreading

March 8th, 2008

importance-of-proofreading.jpgAfter several months of consideration and debate, I have finally decided to start an “English Usage” category here at Karlonia for the benefit of my beloved readers. I am planning on making this a weekly feature similar to the search query answer posts that I have scheduled to run on Sundays. Because there are so many common mistakes that I see people making on their published blogs and web pages, I should have an ample source of material for this series, especially if I address each issue in separate posts as opposed to making casual mention of several issues and then lumping them together in one post. This means that there will be plenty of time to cover the most common English usage issues in detail before we get around to more esoteric topics such as whether or not it is grammatically correct to end a sentence with a preposition.

Before I begin the series of lessons that will explore each issue, I will use the remainder of this post to explain why it is important to learn how to use the English language properly, particularly in its written form. Before you actually publish a written work, proofreading it and correcting any errors is important for the following reasons:

  1. Having clean copy helps you maintain a professional image and makes it more likely that your written documents will be taken seriously and provide favorable results.
  2. You will be able to communicate more effectively and greatly reduce the possibility of any misunderstandings. By contrast, if your writing is sufficiently riddled with errors or includes non-standard forms of English such as IM (instant messaging) shorthand or “leet speak”, a substantial portion of your audience may not even understand what you are saying.
  3. Depending on the situation, some types of errors that are not corrected in time can wind up causing you much embarrassment later and can even make you look stupid. For example, if you look closely at the image in the upper left of this page, you can see that the words across the front of the basketball players’ T-shirts read “West Virgina” instead of the correct name West Virginia. While I’m not exactly sure what a “virgina” is, I can think of two very similarly spelled words that provide some interesting mental associations. The original photo can be found at Ad Goodness.
  4. Doing the proper proofreading and getting it right the first time will prevent the possibility of having to spend money on reprinting paper documents or spending extra time editing web pages or blog posts after publication because they contain embarrassing errors.
  5. Perhaps the most important but least recognized reason for proofreading is that there are many errors that cannot be caught by spell checker software but will still make a writer look very ignorant if they manage to slip through and become part of a published work.

To illustrate this last point, consider the example of this “spell checker poem” written by Janet Minor:

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I’ve run this poem threw it,
I’m sure your pleased too no,
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

Although a standard run thorough a spell checker would not detect any problems, there are actually twelve English usage errors in the above quote, most of them involving homonyms. In case you didn’t notice them all on the first reading:

  • four = for
  • revue = review
  • sea = see
  • threw = through
  • your = you’re (”you are” is also correct, but would mess up the rhyme scheme)
  • too = to
  • no = know
  • its = it’s (or “it is”, but this would also alter the rhyme scheme)
  • it’s = its
  • weigh = way
  • tolled = told
  • sew = so

Finally, this humorous video titled “The Impotence of Proofreading” by Taylor Mali provides a good example of what an unpolished piece of writing can sound like when critical mistakes are not corrected before publication. For a printed copy of Mali’s 3-minute speech, see his website at TaylorMali.com.


11 Responses to “The Importance of English Usage and Proofreading”

  1. comment number 1 by: Justin

    Someone came to my website from this website. Don’t know how, so I just wanted to say hello :)

  2. comment number 2 by: Dominique

    Thanks for dropping your entrycard on my site. I tried to drop back but can’t find the link on your site.

  3. comment number 3 by: Karlonia

    @Justin:

    Welcome to Karlonia - I’m glad you managed to find this site. We are open to all visitors regardless of your website origin.

    @Dominique:

    My Entrecard widget is located on the sidebar (right side) between the lines “Subscribe in a reader” and “Recent articles”. It should have the “E” logo with the word “Drop” under it and is located about one third of the way down the page above the fold. Click on the word “Drop” to record your card drop.

    If you still do not see it, try refreshing the page a time or two - I have often had to do this with other sites because for some reason the Entrecard widget is often the last element on the page to load. Even after the rest of the page fully loads, sometimes the widget itself still does not load properly. I suspect that this is a server load/slowness issue with Entrecard. I have experienced this problem at many different blogs during my daily drops, even at sites that normally load very quickly.

  4. comment number 4 by: Caren

    I have no idea how someone got to my website from here either ^^.

    I also think the person who can’t see the entrecard button has a anti-script firefox addon. Just allow amazonaws and entrecard on your options. I have no idea what amazonaws has to do with entrecard but you need it allowed to see the entrecard widget.

    You do a lot of content from freelancing sites. :) Sharing the love heh? That’s always nice.

  5. comment number 5 by: roel

    I always love your posts. I am subscribing to your RSS now. But I’d still want to visit here often. Very informative - and helped me a lot in my efforts to learn the art of blogging.

  6. comment number 6 by: ireland5

    Wow - excellent article! Good mix of media - text, examples, and video. Happy to hear this will be a series of articles. Maybe your readers might enjoy making suggestions for future posts on this topic. I’d like to recommend an article on the ‘could of’ and ’should of’ problem encountered in both written and verbal forms…

  7. comment number 7 by: Karlonia

    @Caren:

    This is a good point about the Firefox anti-script extension. I use Firefox and have a few of the extensions installed for SEO purposes but didn’t realize that there was an anti-script one out there. Firefox has so many add-ons now that it is getting difficult to keep up with them all!

    The content from freelancing sites that you are seeing is from the articles that I purchased through Constant-Content (I have not used any other freelancing sites for this). Besides for writing style differences, you can tell which ones these are by looking at the first paragraph where I have included an “extended byline” that gives credit to the author and provides a short description of the article topic.

    Overall, the majority (probably 75-80%) of the articles are still written by me. In recent months I have been moving toward trying to outsource a portion of the content creation in order to free up more time for me to focus on other aspects of managing and promoting this site. This includes things like getting backlinks to specific posts for SEO, traffic generation through Entrecard, and exploring ideas for building some niche sites in order to generate enough income for my whole operation to be sustainable and actually worth the time spent.

    Of course, publishing articles by other authors also helps to “share the love” by giving others some free publicity. Eventually I will get a contact page posted on the site that will allow others to submit articles for guest posting directly to my email address. Afterward, I can review these submissions, proofread them, clean up any errors, and include them as posts. This will be a good way for me to provide more informative content from different perspectives, free up some of my time, and give others a much-coveted free backlink.

    @roel:

    Thank you for reading my posts and subscribing to the RSS feed. I still need to figure out how to enable RSS subscriptions by email, which will give visitors more options in this area. Nevertheless, I am pleased that you like my beloved blog and are actually able to benefit from the content. This makes the whole effort seem much more worthwhile.

    @ireland5:

    Yes, the “could of”, “would of”, etc. issue is definitely one that I will address. Hopefully some other readers will make suggestions also. I already have several ideas in mind, such as the their vs. there vs. they’re issue and the you vs. your typos. I’m seeing these kinds of errors on an almost daily basis now in emails that are being sent by the so-called “guru” marketers, so I have started saving some of these so that I can select certain sentences from them later and use them as examples of incorrect usage.

  8. comment number 8 by: Caren

    I notice you use Feedburner. If you need to also give Rss via email, they offer that too.
    Just go to the “Publicize” tab and go to “email subscriptions”.

  9. comment number 9 by: Karlonia

    @Caren:

    Thank you for the tip. It has been a while since I have logged into my Feedburner account, but I remember seeing the Publicize tab, so I will look at this the next time I’m logged in there. If I can extract the code and get the email option properly displayed and working on the site, I may be able to pull in a few more subscribers.

  10. comment number 10 by: J.C.

    Hi Karlonia,
    first of all - thanks so much for all the effort you are putting in your site. I would appreciate it enormously if you find a time for visiting my blog, which is for sure full of the things that require your attention. English is not my first language but I am making serious efforts in improving it. You are free to use the examples and errors from my site and I will be truly thankful for your advices. I could offer you some Entrecard credits in return.
    Thanks a lot.

  11. comment number 11 by: professional writer/spammer

    If you look for an ideal writing, editing, and proofreading solution, you should try using this English Grammar Usage Checker. Due to the fact that most communication today is done by writing, we easily notice the increasing use of advanced language writing, editing and processing tools. Read the following review and find out how technology can assist you on improving your English sentences.

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