The Cake Decorator’s Mistakes

(Photo of fancy cake with “Mom” or “Moni” on it)

Have you ever ordered a cake to celebrate an event, such as a high school graduation? You pick up the cake from the bakery and move on to the next item on your list of things to do before the party. Once home, you take the cake out of the box and realize that your child’s name is misspelled, and the icing colors do not match the school’s colors. There is no time to fix it. What do you do?

Maybe you feel responsible for not checking the cake before leaving the bakery. If you had, the bakery could have fixed their mistakes immediately, and your cake would look as expected. Most likely your trust and confidence in that bakery is gone. If you had opened the box and reviewed the cake before leaving the bakery to verify that your order was correct, you would have been performing the role of a proofreader.

In technical documentation, proofreaders provide the final check of the document before it is too late (i.e., published). Proofreaders check for errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax, as well as ensure graphics and colors are to specification. Proofreaders also confirm that an editor’s comments or changes have been incorporated accurately, names are spelled correctly, and numbers are exact. Don’t confuse proofreading with editing. Proofreaders do not make style or organizational changes to the text. That is the job of a copyeditor, who is brought on early in the production process.

Proofreading is done right before publication. Therefore, it provides quality control, increases content accuracy, and reduces expenses by eliminating the need for costly corrections post publication. Quality, error-free documentation instills trust in the information. Mistakes can come across as careless and sloppy, putting the credibility of the data in question. For example, an extra space could be interpreted as an omission of information. A more complex mistake, such as in a mathematical formula, can have disastrous consequences. And a simple mistake, such as misspelling a basic word, can make the author look uneducated and unable to use basic spelling and grammar tools.

Check out this headline that was actually printed in a city newspaper:

(Photo of actual newspaper headline reading, “County’s top speller takes part in virutal spelling bee”)

The irony is entertaining, but the fact that a professional journalist let it slip by is simply cringeworthy.

Errors are not always obvious misspellings. Often writers cannot see their own mistakes, such as omissions of words, because they are too close to the content. When the author tries to proofread what they have written, their mind will auto-correct and fill in missing words and skip over misspellings.

That is why proofreading services are so valuable. They provide the fresh eyes needed to make sure a document makes sense and is free of blunders. In the cake analogy, the decorator should have “proofread” the cake against the order specifications to confirm it was correct before it left the bakery. The cake decorator would have had a happy (read “repeat”) customer.

ProWrite has experience in providing proofreading services. Put the (correct) icing on the cake and contact us before you publish your documentation to ensure that it delivers the quality and intended content you want your customers or clients to have.

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