In-house style guides are there to keep publications clear, consistent and accurate so shouldn’t they be proofread for spelling, grammar and punctuation themselves?
You’d think so, but it seems the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland forgot to check its work (or it hired the worst proofreader in the world) when it published a Plain language style guide for documents.
You can see the pretty long list of the errors on the document in Stan Carey’s post: HSE – Who proofreads the proofreaders? There’s also a good discussion going on in the comments.
My experience is that this kind of work can easily fall between the cracks in a big organisation. It is often the comms people who create the copy and the illustrators who lay it out. Technical points or queries about sense will most likely be run past a subject matter expert.
But basic proofreading is often passed on to the person in the department considered to have a good grasp of English. This is like giving the company accounts to someone who likes numbers, or layout to someone who is good at drawing.
Big orgs seem unaware of (or unwilling to prioritise the budget for?) proofreaders. But proofreading is a skill. Not only does it keep spelling, grammar and style points on track but, through accuracy and better readability, it builds trust in the reader.
I’ve only worked for two public sector organisations and both had previously just done the proofing themselves. In some cases, they didn’t do a bad job. But when they saw the level of red pen marks of a qualified proofreader, then they realised the difference between a quick read-though and a proper markup.
Still, the HSE errors are particularly surprising – even an automatic spellcheck should have picked up many of the issues that Stan highlights.
But, yanno, whatevah! I’m sure HSE is not the only outfit in the land with a dodgy style guide. I remember a superbly accurately Radio Times style guide that was completely unusable because it was the size of a doorstep.
Anyway, enough finger-pointing. Here is a LOLcat to rebalance the universe.
Every little helps at Tesco – even correct grammar
Nice to see grammatical pedantry is alive and well. There are 145 comments and counting on the Telegraph’s story of Tesco changing its ’10 items or less’ signs to ‘up to 10 items’. Also, 51 so far on a Digitalspy forum. And, weirdly, 23 on a community of Mazda MX-5 owners, one of whom suggests putting rulebreakers in stocks at the supermarket for everyone to jeer at.
Now that would also be a great way to boost trade of eggs and on-offer fruit and veg, wouldn’t it? See grammar IS good for commerce…
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