Why a Little Proofreading Might Have Saved Amazon a Big Headache

On Tuesday of this week, an outage at cloud provider Amazon’s Web Services forced several major websites and mobile apps to go dark. The culprit? The scourge of copywriters everywhere: a typo.

Amazon released an apology, explaining that an engineer was only trying to take down a small subset of servers for inspection but entered a command incorrectly. Just a few wrong keys brought a large set of servers down and resulted in an estimated loss of $150 million. It’s an extreme example but it just goes to show—it’s not just copywriters who need to take typos and spelling errors seriously.

Whether your an engineer, a writer, or just someone who noticed the grammatical error at the beginning of this sentence, proofreading for mistakes is important! Just ask the Department of Education…or maybe don’t.

Here at MarketSmiths, we believe quality control goes far beyond typos, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. But in honor of that million-dollar mistake, let’s take a look at some key strategies to help you avoid typos.

Grammar and Spell Checkers Are Your Friend

This first strategy is perhaps the most obvious—take advantage of your writing platform’s spelling and grammar checker.  If you’re writing in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, pay attention to those squiggly red and green lines. They’re there to help you.

If you’re looking for more help, consider using online grammar checker Grammarly. For those on a budget, the free version works like a normal spellchecker. But for those wiling to splurge, Grammarly Premium claims to fix over 250 types of errors Microsoft Word can’t find and will even help you find “context-optimized” synonym suggestions. Isn’t that great? Marvelous? Outstanding?

Peers, Friends, And Coworkers Are Also Your Friend

We’ve all experienced it. You read over something you’ve written a hundred times and you’re convinced it’s perfect. And then a friend reads it for the first time and instantly spots a dumb typo. Well don’t beat yourself up too much. According to psychologist Tom Stafford, this happens because we’re smart. When we’re proof reading our own work, we already know the point we want to get across so we skip over simple components like spelling or punctuation. That’s why it’s so helpful to have an outsider review your work. So before you send out that tweet or carve a historic speech into a memorial, maybe have a friend take a look.

Rest Those Weary Eyes

One of the simplest things you can to do help with proof reading is to give yourself some time away from whatever it is you’re working on. We’ve suggested this in the past as a way to escape the harrows of perfectionism but it applies here as well. Whether you can give it a day or a week, set aside some time for you to take a break and return to your work with fresh eyes.

Read Your Work Out Loud

Author David Sedaris is famous for reading his work aloud. In an interview with Fast Company, he said “I used to hate it when a book came out or a story was published and I would be like ‘damn, how did I not catch that? But you pretty much always catch it when you’re reading out loud.”

Hearing your work read out loud (either by you or by a text to voice program) gives you another perspective on your writing. You may feel a bit silly at first, but once you start catching awkward sentences or typos you’ll want to start making this a habit.

Don’t let what happened to Amazon happen to you. Keep an eye out for costly mistakes—or better yet, partner with a professional writing service. At MarketSmiths, we believe in crisp, clear copywriting bolstered by rigorous quality control. To find out more about what we doget in touch today.

Tori Ahl

Tori Ahl

A firm believer that content is king, Tori has devoted her career (and free time!) to the creation of powerful writing. While studying film at the University of Southern California, Tori developed a passion for effective storytelling--a passion that informs all of her work. Whether she’s writing a comedy sketch at UCB or copy for a client, Tori aims to harness the power of words in order to tell a good story.

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