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Offbeat: Idiot proofing


The Liberal Democrats have apologised this week following the release of a campaign leaflet which used highly inappropriate language to describe a Cornish nationalist candidate.

Stuart Cullimore, the candidate for Mebyon Kernow, which wants self-government for Cornwall, was said to be upset and offended after seeing himself described in the leaflet as a “greasy-haired tw*t”. He is understood to be considering what action to take.

Though only a small number of the leaflets were distributed, a Lib Dem investigation has begun into how the documents were able to be distributed before anyone spotted the offending phrase.

The incident highlights how important thorough proofreading is in any line of business. Typos and thoughtless remarks that make it into the public sphere have the potential to cause massive offence and severe reputational damage.

In 2008, a college in Iowa had to offer a hasty apology after an event was incorrectly posted on the calendar page of a student handbook. The posting was supposed to read, “Black History Lunch and Learn”. Instead, the title of the event said, “Black History Linch and Learn”.

Many of the 10,000 people to receive the book failed to see the funny side of the error. And the incident was a huge embarrassment. The college had to issue stickers for offended students to place over the typo.

As a journalist you see loads of unfortunate typos, and not all of them are caught before reaching the light of day. In 2005 a colleague was involved with a transport business magazine that printed a story about rail services in the South west. Unfortunately, a highly strategic ‘o’ was omitted from Cornwall County Council. They were understandably miffed.

The moral of the story is to check, and check again. Then, if it’s really important, get someone else to check it. The extra time spent is nothing compared to the offense and embarrassment you risk otherwise. 

We're sure that you'll spot some typos on TrainingZone - after publishing this article, we've laid ourselves open! Please let us know if you spot any, and we'll fix them. And if you'd like to let us know of your embarrassing howlers, please post them below.

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