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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Proofreading Tip: National Proofreading Day

March 8 is my mom's birthday. Flo loved to correct people, especially when it was related to language. But, is that enough to designate March 8 as National Proofreading Day?

Typos have caused some embarrassing moments and some costly mistakes. Watch Jay Leno's "Headlines," and you'll see what I mean. Even professionals get it wrong.

Correct all errors--in all documents: spreadsheets, presentations, reports, letters, e-mails, resumes. If a spreadsheet has a typo, readers will wonder if the numbers are accurate. A resume with a typo could mean a job seeker won't get called for the interview. Is your presentation professional if it has a misspelled word? Flo certainly wouldn't think so!

In the 1980s a Florida contractor filed a $254,000 product liability lawsuit against Lotus Development Corporation (remember the spreadsheet app, Lotus 1-2-3?). An employee in the construction company developed a Lotus spreadsheet to cost jobs. An additional row was inserted for general expenses; however, the formula didn't include the newly added expense of $254,000 in a $3 million office complex contract, which caused the contractor to underbid on that job. Even though the contractor won the bid, it lost money on the deal. Lotus said it wasn't responsible for the contractor's error. The contractor eventually withdrew the lawsuit.

Test all formulas in a spreadsheet to be sure they're calculating properly, especially after inserting and/or deleting rows and columns. Print a "formula display" of the worksheet to help with debugging; add row and column headings and gridlines before printing to make the formulas easier to understand. (Read the posting below for step-by-step instructions on how to do that.)

Mistakes include misspelled words; misused words; typos; grammatical errors; and missing, overused, and incorrect punctuation marks. Correct all of them. Let's care about accuracy. Join the movement. Carry a red pen (or pencil)! Celebrate National Proofreading Day!

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