It Always Comes Down to the Proofreading

A Washington, D.C. radio station cited this example in one of its weekly “Knuckleheads in the News” contests: An elementary school in Fort Worth, Texas is getting an “F” for adding an extra “i” to the spelling of its name. The spelling error went unnoticed for nine years, according to The school’s name is Sunrise McMillan but was spelled “McMillian” until someone finally pointed out the extra “i.”

Spelling error to be sure, but it was missed, no doubt, because everyone knew what it was supposed to say* and failed to really read the word. It’s tough to proofread that with which you’re familiar, especially if you wrote it.

Here are a few proofreading tips:

  1. Don’t trust your word processor’s spell checker. It doesn’t catch everything.
  2. Be alert for homophones that sound alike but mean different things and may be spelled differently: To, two and too; there, their, they’re; hear, here; accept, except… this list is practically endless!
  3. Speaking of their and they’re, be certain you get your contractions correct with apostrophes in the right places.
  4. Read it out loud.
  5. Enlarge it to fill your screen.
  6. Read it backward (and that’s backward, not backwards according to the AP Stylebook although in UK English, it’s backward as an adjective but backwards as an adverb).
  7. Have someone else proofread it for you.

Happy proofreading, and as for that last tip, don’t hesitate to contact me for help!

*I’d probably give the school a “D” since the error occurred in a proper name and for anyone who didn’t know the correct spelling, McMillian could be correct. That said, the McMillan family, for whom the school was named, was probably not too happy.

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