Even Teachers Need Proofreading

This will be a short post, but the story is too good to wait.

Here’s what happened. All high school students are required to take a state-mandated, state-developed competency test. This is true in all states. However, in Kansas the students are also asked to be smarter than the people who wrote the test and the more than 30 teachers who reviewed it.

Professional documents require external proofreaders.

Professional documents require external proofreaders.

In one part of the test, the students are given a series of writing prompts, which they use to create an essay, which is used to discover whether they know anything about writing. One prompt asked students to write about “the omission of greenhouse gases.” Omission? Write about omitting (forgetting about, not considering, leaving out) greenhouse gases? Huh?

It’s a spelling error. The test should have asked about the “emission” of greenhouse gases.

All across Kansas, students were asked to write about something that doesn’t make sense–because the state department of education officials, the company that created the test, and the more than 30 teachers that reviewed it didn’t proofread carefully. You can read the entire story by clicking here.

The reason for this troubling mistake is probably two-fold.

First: Proofreading your own work is very, very hard to do. People don’t see what they don’t expect to see, and they see what they think they have written. When you write, you know what you expect, and this can cause you to overlook errors.

Second: Many people who are otherwise proficient in English and writing do not think they are likely to make mistakes, so they don’t pay as close attention to the mechanics as they should. (I have learned to send my formal documents to our proofreaders for this very reason).

This is why external proofreaders and editors are essential for formal documents. (Hmm…perhaps we should send a brochure to the Kansas Department of Education.)

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