How to Avoid a $46,000 Mistake

A university in Colorado recently realized it had issued over 9,000 diplomas with a typo. In Old English font, they were conferred by the school’s President and the Chair of the Coard of Trustees. The error went unnoticed for six years, until the school newspaper editor caught it on his own diploma. The university is offering to replace the erroneous diplomas at a cost of about $5 each, so if all 9,200 get replaced, the school will spend $46,000 on the fix. That’s the cost to an organization offering to do the right thing. Imagine how much more money might be on the line if a financial report were printed with a dollar amount in millions written as $10,00 and investors didn’t know whether a holding was worth one thousand million dollars or TEN thousand million? I’ve caught that error more than once. What steps can your company take to avoid making costly mistakes like these?

The TalentMEDIA team has outlined a plan for you:

  1. Hire a proofreader.

Really, that’s it. We are trained to catch typos like the one on these diplomas. The fussy font makes this one harder to spot, but a proofreader will still see it. We look closely at “special characters,” so that even if we don’t know what a capital B looks like in Old English type, we’d notice that it shouldn’t look the same as the capital C directly above it. In mathematical type, we notice when characters drop off, and can alert a client that its scientific audience is about to get a puzzle like ◌ν=cinstead of the critical formula λν=c.

We know that a formatting program can mistakenly repeat the whole word after a drop cap, so that a chapter might begin with a typo like this:

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]drop caps should be part of the first word, but this says “Ddrop.” Spell check doesn’t realize it. Your proofreader does. I applaud the college newspaper editor who caught the diploma error. He wasn’t being paid to proofread them – he was checking the spelling of his own name on his diploma and his editing reflexes caught the error. That’s what we editors and proofreaders do!


Written by Sheila Gagen, Director of Editorial Services at Vector TalentMEDIA. For more information about how TalentMEDIA’s editorial team can help you, contact Sheila at