Thursday, August 24, 2000

Real Life Bloopers

Major Mistakes Make for Funny Stories

(ARA) - For most people, writing is either a rewarding creative process or a laborious chore. Regardless of which camp you fall into, the tedious and tiring job of proofreading is a task few enjoy. In business and professional writing, there are times when simple errors become memorable for the wrong reasons. Take the proofreading experience of Janell Wojtowicz, formerly an editor at a small Iowa newspaper. While writing an article about a church event, Janell meant to type "United Methodist Church." Instead, she accidentally typed "Untied Methodist Church," warranting a call from the pastor a few days later. "He jokingly asked, 'Do you know something about my church that I don't?'" Wojtowicz recalls. "I learned an important lesson that day: spell check is not the answer to all our proofreading problems."

Wojtowicz joined the millions of people each year who make humorous mistakes, bloopers and blunders in writing and other communications. "It's fun to laugh at these mistakes, as long as it doesn't happen to you. Sometimes these mistakes can cost a lot of money to mend, and they could even cost you your job!" says Steve Druley, Director of Marketing for Insty-Prints Business Printing Services. So go ahead and laugh, but take notes on the following bloopers in writing, courtesy of Insty-Prints.

  1. Stating the obvious. This mostly appears in titles and headlines. "Rain Creates Wet Roads," "Winter Brings Colder Temperatures," and "Clothes Dry Faster in the Dryer, Survey Says" are statements that will certainly make you look silly--and may even guarantee you a spot on The Tonight Show's Headlines segment, where Jay Leno makes fun of goofy mistakes and blunders like these.

  2. Inappropriate translations. If you are not using a professional translation service or a native speaker for foreign language writing, you may want to squeeze them into your budget. Remember the infamous mistake made by Chevrolet when they tried to market their Nova model in Spanish speaking countries? If you don't, all you need to know is that "No Va" in Spanish means "It does not go." Enough said.

  3. Poor math or wrong numbers. 55 percent, 30 percent and 25 percent don't add up to 100 percent, so always do your math. Take note that most months of the year are 30 or 31 days long. This may seem incredibly elementary, but you'd be surprised at the number of retailers who have sales on the "31st and 32nd" of the month!

  4. Bad choice of words. You may not have intended the pun when you wrote "Automobile Plant Profits Crash," but it's one that is easy to overlook.

    Here are some other examples from Richard Lederer's "Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language": "Reagan Wins on Budget, but More Lies Ahead"; "Juvenile Court to try Shooting Defendant."

  5. Confusing word order. Here are some more examples from Lederer:

    • "Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax"
    • "Stolen Painting Found by Tree"
    • "2 Sisters Reunited after 18 years in Checkout Counter"

  6. Photo or art errors. A major midwestern newspaper once printed a story about a newspaper carrier who was murdered while on the job--and directly underneath it they had put a Help Wanted ad for carriers. In another example, an Advertising agency sent photographic artwork to a client for review, without realizing that the client's competitor was shown in the background of the photo!

These bloopers are worth a good laugh, but you don't want it to happen to you. In order to avoid mistakes, Insty-Prints advises taking the proper steps each time you write. Druley suggests the following:

While it is not the most glamorous of jobs and can cause headaches, back pain and overall boredom, proofreading your documents is definitely worth the hassle. Comedians may poke fun at such errors, but a big mistake can cost your company money, clients and respect within the industry. Druley notes, "We recognize the potential damage that can occur from poor proofreading. We have communication lines open with our customers to ensure that they don't make an expensive mistake."

In the meantime, have fun laughing at bloopers, but try to catch them before you send off an ad, resume or brochure. Your claim that you "Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year" could end up on a bloopers list somewhere, more than likely slimming down your job prospects!

For more information on correcting those embarrassing proofreading blunders, contact one of Insty-Prints' over 250 locally-owned Business Printing Centers by calling their World Headquarters at (800) 779-1000 or visiting their Web site at

Courtesy of Article Resource Association,, e-mail:

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