I've always been good enough when it comes to spelling and grammar that I can write out documents and copy coherently and without obvious errors. Occasionally one or two things slip through, but I don't think it's realistic to expect everyone to get everything one hundred percent of the time. The thing is, at my current workplace it seems to be a bigger problem than I would've imagined.

I won't go into specifics, (I know I'm not the only one who browses StackExchange on lunch occasionally, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed) but on a few occasions documents have been sent to customers and promotional material has been printed in bulk with obvious errors, and it reflects on everyone in our small-ish company.

Perfect spelling and grammar aren't everyone's forte so I would never call them out in front of the office or belittle them for it, but at the same time it still feels patronising or condescending to say something along the lines of "Hey, would you mind if I just proofread that before you send it out?", especially considering I'm relatively young and with a university education whereas a lot of the culprits are older and "learned it all on the job".

I've offered before (to the office in general) to scan over copy or marketing emails, but I think the group of people who are most often responsible aren't even aware of their mistakes.

What's the politest way to get the point across that mistakes in things given or sent to customers makes us all look less professional without making people feel belittled, while still making it clear that some people need to get their work proofread? Or am I just going to have to suck this one up and deal with it?

Edit: I don't want to proofread literally everything everyone does, but it's my opinion that ten minutes between tasks every now and then is worth it. Also, there is quite a flat management structure. Everyone more or less self-manages and reports to the CEO who can be as bad at times as anyone else, so I can't take this one up the ranks so to speak.

  • All bar one member of staff here are English, and even the non-English has better spelling than most.
    – Leylandski
    Oct 18 '16 at 14:40
  • @Leylandski English as in Brexit or American? Also you could propose it in a Meeting that certain stuf could use proofreading like contracts or important communication. Oct 18 '16 at 14:45
  • English as in Brexit (I really hope that name doesn't stick). I'm going to start noting down whenever I see one so I can say to the CEO look, we need to do something about this.
    – Leylandski
    Oct 18 '16 at 15:01
  • There are professionals whose whole job is to write/structure/edit/proof documents meant for public consumption. It may be that your company is growing to the size that it makes sense to employ someone like that. My wife is one of those people and I can tell you no matter how good I think I write, she can rip my writing to shreds in a matter of moments.
    – Peter M
    Oct 18 '16 at 15:10
  • It's neither your role, nor your responsibility and I can't see how it will benefit you personally. The company face to the World is not your problem, several people are being paid a LOT more to handle that. My advice is to concentrate on your own spelling etc,. and perhaps even shine in contrast.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 18 '16 at 20:52

Assuming you are not in a leadership role in your organization, I would mark up the errors in distributed materials and send them to whomever is responsible for customer communication. They are the ones who will have the power to modify the publishing process, they just need to be made aware of the problem and sold on the solution of proofing prior to distribution.

Edit: Based on your comment about the flat management structure, I would take this to the CEO. Highlight the errors in several publications and express your concern about what these errors are doing to the company's image. Once you have expressed that, let it go. The CEO will do something or they won't, you've done your duty in reporting the issue.

  • I'll start noting down every time I see one, then present that (anonymised) to him. I think you're right though, if it gets to that stage and still nothing gets done then I can't say I didn't try and do something.
    – Leylandski
    Oct 18 '16 at 15:03
  • I forgot to mention, we don't have a customer communication rep as it's a small company. Stuff just gets sent out by whoever needs to send it (bad practice I know, but getting things proofread is still considerably easier than implementing that would be).
    – Leylandski
    Oct 18 '16 at 15:10
  • +1, for not in a leadership role. As an employee you can make suggestions. If the brass decides to listen or not, now that is a completely different story. Oct 18 '16 at 15:44
  • @Leylandski I don't know if anonymous feedback is necessary. Given you are speaking to the CEO I'd just make certain that you communicate that you see it as a systematic problem that there are no checks prior to publishing and that it is a systematic issue rather than just one user. Make it clear that you are looking for a system to be implemented and not anyone to be disciplined.
    – Myles
    Oct 18 '16 at 16:28

3 options.

  1. Flag the errors discretely to your boss (or their boss if it's your boss who is making the mistakes) and insist that someone proofread what is sent out (they will probably get you to do it).
  2. Highlight the errors to the person who made them (discretely) and offer to proofread in future.
  3. Circle the errors in red pen, pin the offending documents to the door so everyone sees it on their way into the office.

I do not recommend #3, but it is absolutely hilarious to do (yes, I have done it)

  • Sometimes I'd really like to do #3. I might not go that far, but if I can't get the message across I might well need to be at least a bit more confrontational.
    – Leylandski
    Oct 18 '16 at 14:44

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