And the Oscar Goes to… Proofreading!

In case you missed it, there was a mistake at this year’s Oscar ceremony—an error the unsung heroes of our in-house agencies most certainly would have recognized and quietly rectified if only the headcount had been allocated to support them.

What I’m referring to, of course, is the mistaken announcement of La La Land as Best Picture which was amended to Moonlight before an audience of 300 and a viewership of nearly 33 million. As the majority of those watching were aghast at the blunder, proofreaders nationwide were shaking their heads wondering, “Why didn’t anyone read the outside of the envelope first?”

The answer is simple. The accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who were distributing the award envelopes are not proofreaders. Famed announcers, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, are not proofreaders either (though Beatty showed promise there for a second). No, the champions of commas and common sense who walk quietly among us were not resident in Hollywood on Oscar night. The question is, are they resident within your team?

Once a critical competency for internal and external agencies alike, the editorial services function has diminished considerably in most corporate creative organizations. We can blame automated work streams or tools like Spell Check and Grammarly. The reality is that the absence of formal proofreading is due to an absence of understanding regarding the necessity of the function.

When the recession hit in 2009/10, in-house agencies were called to do more with less. As a result, numerous copywriting and editorial functions were collapsed causing proofing to become part of someone’s job versus a job itself. As the economy rebounded and the headcount noose loosened, new hires were allocated to new media—not to backfilling roles that were provisionally consolidated.

What in-house leaders are finding today is that systems and software aren’t enough to catch the litteny of mis-takes that so offen occur in the werk there team’s produce. Common mistakes and typographical errors cost US companies millions each year—millions that might be avoided if staffing models and project processes recognized the importance of formalized proofreading.

So while the accountants at PwC who were responsible for the Oscar gaffe may not be invited back, my hope is that in-house agencies embrace and formally reinstitute PwC in the year to come—that is Proofreading with Care.

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