By Tim Hayes

Somewhere across Denmark, 300 Danes are still fuming.

Seems the Danish state lottery made a slight boo-boo this week, wherein 300 winners of the “Keno” game received official letters informing them that they each had won 28 billion kroner, which would be equivalent to about $5 billion. 

28 billion kroner.  Each.  With notification arriving on official state letterhead.  Signed by some officially designated official.

Then they received another notice, telling them that – whoops! – there appeared to be a little hitch in those first jackpot announcements.  How did that pesky word “billion” get in there?  Gosh, folks, we’re awful sorry, but it turns out you won a little less than that.  Actually, a lot less than that.  Hope there are no hard feelings.  Go Denmark!

Which brings us to the not-very-sexy-but-more-important-than-air topic of proofreading in effective communications.

Some people love to proofread copy, most don’t.  But when the proverbial horse is out of the barn and your mistake-laden prose has been released to an unsuspecting public, that’s when most writers finally get religion and pay more attention to proofreading.

Once, a fellow reporter in a newsroom where we both worked asked me to take a look at his resume.  He had his eye on bigger, lusher, greener pastures, and – he admitted later – had already sent the resume to the editor at the plum job he coveted so dearly.  Why he asked me to read his resume, I eventually surmised, was to get some reflected glory from my sure-to-be-stellar review.

Then I read the thing.  It did not have many errors, but there were a few words not spelled correctly, and had some punctuation missing.  Have you ever seen a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon that’s begun to deflate halfway down Broadway?  That’s what this guy’s face looked like when I pointed out the flaws in his brilliant career opus.

The best professor I ever had taught Basic Journalistic Writing, among many other great courses.  He had one hard-and-fast rule, regardless of which class he may have been teaching at the time.  Misspellings of any kind resulted in a grade lowered by one letter, and misspellings of proper nouns – even one – meant you failed that assignment.  F.  No questions asked, no ground given, no appeals possible.  The guy was consistent, insistent, persistent – and still is, as he continues his labors in the college classroom today.  The students over the years who took his lessons to heart continue to stand apart in the workaday world, because they know the basics of solid writing.  I think of him all the time, muttering a silent “Thanks, Randy,” as I go about my business of writing for clients.

An old boss of mine once told me, “There’s no such thing as good writing.  There is only good rewriting,” and he was right.  Just as in most disciplines, one can always improve upon the product, the craft, the skill, and level of professionalism.

Part of that constant process of sharpening one’s sword in communications requires careful attention to proofreading.  Because, when your name’s on something, it had better be right.

Just ask those 300 angry and disappointed Danes, and the lottery official whose name they’ll be seeing in their nightmares the rest of their lives.

Copyright 2012 Transverse Park Productions, LLC