Proof reading story


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Disclaimer: The views expressed on this page are mine and do not necessarily accord with those of any of my employers, past or present.


Whenever you are tempted to skip proof reading, remember the UK bank that, in the late 1980s, sent a letter announcing a new ‘financial product’ to its 100 wealthiest customers. The letter template contained dummy name and address fields to be completed by the mailmerge program, which inserted the missing information from the bank’s customer database, along with the associated salutation (Dear Reverend Bloggs). The routine task of running the mailmerge and collating the output was said to have been given to an undergraduate student on his placement year, who typed something amusing in the salutation field, knowing it would be overwritten.

The salutation part of the mailmerge failed and nobody physically checked the wording of the letters before they were mailed. That is how the bank’s 100 most valued customers each received a letter starting Dear Rich Bastard.

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