A sign of the importance of proofreading

Confusing one way signs.jpg

Never underestimate the importance of proofreading. That’s the advice being directed at Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department this month after a sign appeared in the city’s Victoria Park advising parents not to leave their children ‘unsurprised’.

The mistake, according to the South China Morning Post, occurred when staff overlooked a typing error while proofreading the new sign, which should have read ‘unsupervised’.

The newspaper pointed out that the sign also included an exhortation to visitors to avoid ‘padding’ instead of ‘paddling’, as well as a warning to hawkers that ‘prosecution will be taken’.

However, before too many parents had the chance to surprise their children, the department acted to correct its mistake, papering over the original text and ordering replacement signs, said the paper.

While readers were quick to blame falling English standards for the error, it is of course easy for anyone to make such mistakes – regardless of whether you're producing written materials in your native language or not.

Our advice? Always ask a colleague with a keen eye for spelling and grammar to double- and triple-check your public-facing materials. If you can, build time for this stage into every writing project.

One approach is to make this step a standard part of your document review and publication process, especially if materials have been worked on by several different people.

For extra peace of mind, you can also think about using a professional editing or proofreading service to help flag up any errors and ensure consistency in your documents.

That way, you’ll be able to avoid inadvertent mistakes in your next brochure or client proposal, and ensure that your audience remains ‘unsurprised’.

Keen to avoid the same fate? Find out more about our editing and proofreading services.

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