Over the weekend I went out to mail family Christmas gifts. On the way home, I heard a radio ad for a charitable organization I donate to on a periodic basis. I believe in the organization’s mission and the good works it does for children and for adults.
For that reason, and that reason alone, I won’t be identifying it by name in this post.
The radio ad contained the group’s new tagline, apparently designed for use during the 2011 Christmas season. The line, which made me stare at the radio in disbelief, is:
Do you have a heart for hurting children?
Read it. Say it aloud. Then read it again.
Now repeat after me: THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR SKIPPING PROOFREADING. EVER.
The organization intended to ask if we have a heart for helping children in need. Children who hurt at the holidays. The intended message is clear. It’s the delivery that leaves something to be desired (particularly since the radio spot is narrated by the organization’s director, whose inflection only enhances the ambiguity).
Writers, take note.
No matter what you are writing, it’s critically important to have someone else proofread your work. We are often too close to our subjects to see the unintended (and often humorous) ambiguities that result from awkward phrasing. Our meaning is so clear in our own minds that we fail to recognize mistakes.
And when you make a howler – and trust me, you will – it’s far better to laugh it off with your writing group or peer-editor than to listen to the giggles of the viewing public at large. Friends and peer-editors forgive and forget…
… the Internet is forever.
So take a lesson from The-Honorable-Charity-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named and find someone to proofread everything before you release it into the wild.
That, or risk us thinking that you have a heart for hurting children.
The choice is up to you.