In my blog and social media posts, you’ll notice a common theme. I constantly chastise people for not consulting native speakers when writing in a foreign language. I explain how difficult it is to proofread in a language that isn’t your first language. Can you guess what I did?

On the rare occasion that I include Korean in a blog or a social media post, I get my wife to check it. I’ve mentioned before that my wife is a freelance translator. She’s been translating English to Korean and Korean to English for over a decade. She’s more than qualified to proofread Korean.

But she gets paid to do that. She’s happy to help me out, but she doesn’t have the time to help me out full-time. I certainly can’t afford to pay her—well, not yet anyway! 😉 But she helps out where she can. For example, all my Instagram posts with the first line in Korean—who do you think writes those?

I tried translating them and having her ‘clean them up.’ 

But my translation attempts left something to be desired. It was easier for her to translate them from scratch instead of fixing my pathetic attempts. 

Trying to be an English copywriter in Korea has its challenges

I’m in somewhat of a unique position with my business. I’m trying to appeal to two different groups simultaneously—English speakers and Korean speakers. I include a Korean first line in my Instagram posts to catch the attention of my Korean followers. It’s also why I use both English and Korean in my blog post tags and Instagram hashtags.

A jumble of multi-colored hashtag symbols

I keep a running list of common tags I use for my blogs. Of course, I had my wife proofread them for me. I keep them in a file and copy and paste them to avoid typos. Whenever I use a new tag, I do my best to find the Korean equivalent and then get my wife to check my translation.

I use a web app to schedule my Instagram posts. I’ll write about it in more detail in a ‘later’ post—wink, wink. It has a nifty feature that allows me to save groups of hashtags that I can add to Instagram posts. I’ve got groups of hashtags I use for signs, menus, and clothing. Some of the hashtags overlap, and whenever possible, I’ll add new hashtags for each post.

Of course, I asked my wife to proofread those too. But when I need to add variations on the same word, I’m confident enough in my Korean to add them myself.

Waking up to complimentary messages is a great way to start the day

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to a message on LinkedIn from someone I did a small job for a few months ago. The message started off by telling me that he enjoyed seeing the corrections I showcased in my posts. He found them helpful. Great way to start the day!

A picture of a young man, smiling while looking at his phone while lying on a bed

But then he mentioned he wanted to help me with my hashtags. I use the same hashtags on Instagram and LinkedIn. The app I use publishes to multiple platforms at once. Maybe this wasn’t such a great start to the day.

What was wrong with my hashtags? I set them up months ago and have been using the same ones over and over. I copied and pasted them to avoid typos. This follower told me I should change #영어궁부혼자하기 to #영어공부혼자하기—i.e. #Englishselfstudy or studyingEnglishbyyourself. Well, that’s what it should have said.

When I got the message, at first, I didn’t understand it. I looked at the first hashtag and the second one, and they looked the same. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell me. 

I kept looking and looking—and then I saw it

 I’d made a typo with the third character. I’d written 궁, but it should’ve been 공. To him, a native Korean speaker, the mistake must’ve jumped off the screen at him. To me, even after someone told me I’d made a mistake, I struggled to find it. Essentially, instead of writing “study,” I wrote “stody”. It was a stupid mistake. A mistake I’d been copying and pasting for months.

A picture of a black dog, staring at the camera, holding a blue greeting card in his mouth that says Thank You

I immediately thanked him and told him I’d fix the error. Easier said than done. My first instinct was to go back and correct all previous instances of this hashtag. That’s who I am—a perfectionist. But because I put my hashtags in the first comment on Instagram, I ran into a problem.

You can edit posts on Instagram but not comments. I could’ve gone back, deleted each comment, and reposted a comment with the edited hashtags. I could’ve then gone back and edited all my LinkedIn posts. That would’ve been a lot of work, considering I post daily, and that hashtag is included in pretty much all my posts.

But then I made a decision. I went to my web app and corrected the typo in my saved groups of hashtags. That ensured I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. I also added two more Korean terms for proofreading that this follower suggested (#영어첨삭 and #영문첨삭). But I decided not to go back and fix my mistakes. Not out of laziness. 

I decided to own my mistake

Go back and look at any of my posts on Instagram or LinkedIn before Sept. 29th. You’ll find that hashtag with the typo still there.

But why was this minor typo such a big deal? I’d been using it for months, and no one had mentioned anything. Did no one notice? Or did they just not bother to tell me? I’ll never know. But my typo was important for the same reasons I outline on my site for English typos made by Koreans.

These types of mistakes show a lack of professionalism. This doesn’t look good for someone like me. My business model depends on being professional and thorough.

A young woman shrugging her shoulders with a speech bubble next to her, which says, "Do as I say, not as I do?"
Woman photo created by Racool_studio – www.freepik.com

It likely didn’t affect my search engine optimization (SEO). But it definitely cost me some missed views. No one is following the hashtag #영어궁부혼자하기 (#Englishselfstody).

It damaged my credibility. As someone who points out typos and mistakes in English, it doesn’t look good if I make typos—even in another language. After all, I keep telling my followers to use a native speaking proofreader. Do as I say, not as I do—never a good motto.

Fred, I again say, “Thank you!” 

Thank you for taking the time to let me know about my mistake. If you hadn’t pointed it out, I would’ve likely kept making the same mistake. There’s very little chance I would’ve caught it myself.

This message has also served as a reminder. I need to make the effort to bother my wife to check my Korean—no exceptions. I’m not sure how the mistake occurred in the first place. My best guess is that it’s related to the hashtag that appears before it: 영어공부 (Englishstudy / studyingEnglish).

I may have copied and pasted that hashtag, accidentally deleted a character or two, and decided to fix it manually. That seems plausible. Regardless of how it happened, it did. And it’s served as a wake-up call for me to have greater attention to detail going forward.

Actually, it was a bad week for me proofreading-wise. Another friend gleefully pointed out an English typo in my blog post from two weeks ago. But that’s a story for another post.

A silhouette of  person shouting into a megaphone, with the word "Feedback" coming out of the megaphone

If you should ever catch a typo in one of my blogs or posts, in English or Korean, please let me know. I’m a perfectionist, I have great attention to detail, and I proofread very carefully—but I’m not perfect.

But I do learn from my mistakes.

Ever made a mistake that undermined your credibility at work? Let’s see who’s brave enough to share below or on social media! 😉

One thought on “How could an English proofreader in Korea have been so careless? I screwed up!

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