When Website Proofreading Fails, What To Do?

When Website Proofreading Fails, What To Do?

There’s a lot more to proofreading than making sure that the grammar and syntax are correct in your online text, or checking to ensure nothing is missing. An important part of proofreading is being certain that the words used in the text are those that were intended by the writer. When proofreading isn’t done thoroughly, mistakes can slip through, and that’s embarrassing enough. But what happens when one of those errant words is considered racist or sexist or obscene?

What usually happens is someone spots the error and posts it to social media. Next news sites pick it up. Soon the internet is abuzz with screen shots of the offensive content and talk about your business for all the wrong reasons. The reputational damage can be significant.

A mistake like this is easy enough to make, and is a good example of when spell-checking software can’t help. But no matter how it got there, the gaffe can cause serious, long-lasting repercussions for your online business.

Here are the three primary steps to take if it happens to you.

  • Fix it. Even if you have to temporarily take down the website during heavy internet traffic, make the correction, and make it as soon as you notice it.
  • Own the mistake. The more visitors your website has, and the more flagrant the mistake, the greater the chance is that others will have copied it and pasted it into their blogs, maybe with the bloggers’ “outraged” commentary added. Take a humble tone, and acknowledge the mistake. Admit your proofreading was lacking, and explain that it was a careless mistake, nothing more.
  • Don’t make excuses, and don’t blame others. Even if you weren’t directly responsible for the blunder, the responsibility is ultimately yours. Blaming others just makes you look unprofessional and further hurts your website’s credibility.

Suppose it wasn’t an unfortunate typo, but something far more egregious that found its way onto the internet. Maybe it was the wrong image, or part of a personal e-mail, or a political rant intended for a private forum. All of that can happen and, in fact, has.

A situation like this is much more serious than any typo could ever be, but the steps for dealing with it are similar: Fix it, own the mistake, and don’t make excuses. Whatever you do—even if it is somehow true—do not say someone hacked your account and posted the offensive content without your knowledge. Nothing will destroy your credibility as quickly as that ploy. Make a sincere, contrite apology and explain that the content does not reflect the values of your business. Then move on.

In an age when publishing content is as easy and as instantaneous as clicking a button, proofreading is more important than ever. If you don’t use an online proofreading service, the burden is on you to do it right—and that means checking and double-checking to make sure that what you say is what you really mean.


Web Done Write is a professional copywriting, editing and proofreading service specializing in website content.
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