As a professional proofreader I’ve read hundreds of documents over the years and some of the same mistakes crop up time and time again. Here are my ‘favourites’:
1. Some people just love apostrophes. So much so that they just stick them any old where. ‘Drink’s’, ‘it’s’ where ‘its’ will do and the mass confusion that surrounds ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ are just a few examples.
2. American influence is all around us – but do we really have to start spelling like them? Microsoft Word’s insistence that us Brits spell words like ‘organise’ with a ‘z’ means that Americanisations/Americanizations can often slip through the net. Also, as I proofread for many international students, I often need to point out that as a student at a UK university it is more appropriate to use UK spelling.
3. Errors can quite easily go un-noticed by Spell Check, particularly ‘fro’ and ‘for’. This generally occurs through typing too quickly and getting the letters jumbled up – an honest enough mistake but something rarely spotted.
4. Within words where letters are repeated it’s quite difficult to see when another is randomly inserted. For example, glancing at ‘succcessfully’ and ‘spellling’ you’d be forgiven for missing the extra ‘c’ and ‘l’.
5. So you’re typing, you’ve entered a word followed by a space and then pause for thought. You then carry on typing, space then the next word – and lo and behold there’s an extra space in there! Particularly on designed text, additional gaps in sentences are particularly tricky to see.
6. Inconsistencies are very common. Even on the same page of a publication you could read something as simple as opening hours written in many different ways: 9am-5pm; 9.00am-5.00pm; 9 am – 5 pm; 9:00-17:00. Similarly, page seven; Page Seven; Page 7. All acceptable on their own, as long as you pick one style and stay with it throughout your text.
7. Many words in the English language sound the same, but when written they mean different things. Complimentary/complementary; whether/weather; stationary/stationery – the list is endless so choose carefully!
8. And don’t get me started on ‘text speak’. Yes, I understand that ‘l8r’ and ‘dat’ have their uses when you need to keep your character count down, but PLEASE DON’T USE THEM IN AN OFFICIAL DOCUMENT!
If there are any other common errors that really get under your skin, feel free to post them here and I’ll add them to my list!