We just can’t spell anymore

Have you heard of the mystery shopper?  It’s persons hired in retail and service industries to shop at stores, bars and restaurants, real estate firms and other service industries. The shopper fills out a report on the quality of the product or service being observed.

Well forget mystery shoppers. I think businesses need to hire mystery proofreaders, and I’m ready to start the service bureau!

I cannot believe that businesses pay for the shoddy copywriting, printing or sign-making that passes as acceptable in today’s society.  I don’t get it.  Does no one else see the errors?  Is the business owner too cheap to correct his or her copy or signs? Are sign-makers or printers offering to make good on errors they created?

Here are some examples I’ve seen in the last few years:

  • A national sandwich company once touted the kick-off of a new marketing campaign with a framed, autographed poster of the spokesmen.  The copy refers to “Heman and Sherman” when it should read “Herman and Sherman.”  I point out the error to the counterman.  His reply?  “Wow, no one’s noticed that before.”
  • A professionally painted retail sign promotes the opening of stores in a newly built strip center.  It reads “Comming Soon.”
  • A local newsletter kicked off its inaugural publication with typos on nearly every page and misspelled the name of a local church for two issues in a row.  I wonder if the church even recognized it was being billed as Resurrerection.
  • I saw a pet store outdoor sign advertising “Hampsters for sale.”  I wonder if they were anything like hamsters.

The most blatantly poor piece of marketing literature that I’ve ever seen [and frightening, if it turns out to have been professionally produced] came from a fireworks retailer a couple Christmases ago.  The four-color, eight-page tabloid was filled with misspelled words and incorrect grammar on every page. I think I counted 47 typographical or grammatical errors in the copy. The piece was also filled with copyright violations that, if directed to the attention of the copyright owners, would have netted the owner a very big lawsuit.  I hope this business owner tried to save money by having a relative create the publicity piece, and didn’t pay persons passing themselves off as marketing professionals…

So what is the real issue with business marketing material? Are we releasing really stupid people into the workforce, or are businesses too busy or too cheap to offer quality control? Many printers will not take responsibility for misspelled or incorrect words in ads and this puts the burden on  the business owner to make sure the copy is correct.

Addendum: you would think, with all the publicity about Trayvon Martin, one could spell his name correctly.  But this past weekend I saw a poster advocating “Justice for Trayon.”



I shake my head.

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