The proofreader’s guide on who to vote for

Firstly, apologies for the lack of bloggage the last three weeks. School holidays and competing work demands forced my hand! I thought I’d return this week with something topical (as opposed to tropical, since a foreign holiday is not on the cards any time soon), as election fever is definitely upon us.

Following various articles doing the rounds on social media about basic errors and typos appearing in the various parties’ election propaganda, I thought it’d be interesting to decide (theoretically, of course!) who to vote for based solely on which party had the least number of mistakes in their literature. It would be easy to use this forum as a soapbox for singling out a particular party who many have accused of being ‘uneducated’, but I’m going to do my best to remain impartial here.

BBC News ran the story of Sebastian Kindersley, the Lib Dem MP who managed to misspell ‘language’ in his campaign leaflet. It wouldn’t have been such a bad error if it hadn’t been part of a sentence about tightening up English language tests for people moving to Britain.

The BBC also had a good article this week, ‘Misstakes and mispellings’, which was all about orthographic crimes committed by those competing to represent our communities in Westminster.

It’s not all been the candidates, their promoters, publishers and parties at fault, though – in my neighbouring district, the council preparing the postal ballot papers managed to somehow misspell one of the parties’ names!

I’m not going to try and duplicate what’s already in these pieces. Instead, I thought I’d be more scientific about it and total the number of mistakes made in each party’s campaign leaflet (based on local literature delivered to my house in the district of Copeland, West Cumbria, UK – I can’t comment on similar literature elsewhere).

As of today (Friday 24 April), I have received pamphlets from four different competitors: the Tories, Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP. I’ve actually received many different missives from UKIP, but for the sake of fairness I’ll only tally the mistakes on our candidate’s main leaflet for the ‘science bit’ (I may refer to other errors at a later stage).

After counting up the errors, here are my results (in alphabetical order, lest I be accused of having a preference):

Conservatives = 12

Labour = 14

Liberal Democrats = 10

UKIP = 13

As you can see, there isn’t a lot in it. I guess we’re looking at a hung parliament with no clear majority…

Let’s take a closer look:

Conservatives (12)

Despite the number of errors, most of these were pretty minor, with most being issues with spacing or punctuation. The worst offenders for me were.

helped by our Help to Buy and record low interest rates.

‘Scheme’ missing after ‘Help to Buy’ here.

first time buyers.

Should be ‘first-time buyers’.

Labour (14)

Labour didn’t do as well as the Tories here, with some odd punctuation choices and illogical and inconsistent capitalization of subheadings. So we had

There’s a lot of hard work still to be done: but our brightest days are ahead of us.

Odd punctuation; would expect a comma rather than a colon.


Massive new nuclear investments in Copeland and Barrow means that

Should be ‘mean that’.

This investment won’t just make our major road safer, but it will boost business and bring our communities closer together.

Should read something like ‘make our major road safer; it will also boost business…’

Budget cuts imposed by the coalition

Should be ‘the Coalition’, at least according to the Coalition’s website.

My favourite (or least favourite?) of all was this horrible sentence:

Budget cuts imposed by the coalition have caused us tough times, but with Labour’s local plan to protect and develop our health services, to invest in and improve our schools and training facilities, to regenerate our town centres and to create an opportunity economy for everyone in Copeland means that we can build a better future for Copeland.

The late repetition of ‘Copeland’ is downright ugly, but what about the sentence’s length?Eat your heart out, James Joyce!

Liberal Democrats (10)

‘Only’ 10 errors for the Lib Dems makes them front runners in my imaginary election, but they’re still ones that shouldn’t be there. For example, despite being chair of his local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society for 17 years, our Lib Dem candidate didn’t think to include the apostrophe in ‘Alzheimer’s’.

Also, bulleted sentences don’t always follow on logically from the first part of the sentence, so we have

In Copeland the Lib Dems have helped rebuild our economy and delivered… 3,800 local people have had a £800 tax cut , 4,180 more apprentices In [‘in’] West Cumbria, Won Equal [‘equal’] marriage for local couples.

Surely ‘An £800 tax cut for 3,800 local people’, ‘in West Cumbria’ and ‘equal’ are better options?

And good ol’ random capitalization rears its ugly head again:

‘Think before you Vote’

Why the capital ‘v’?

UKIP (13)

I have to admit that I expected worse from UKIP, as they seem to have a bit of a reputation for their candidates being ‘uneducated’. Based solely on the number of errors in their candidate’s main leaflet, however, they don’t appear any less educated than the other three parties discussed above.

So we have a couple of relatively minor errors:

I wish to see a better Local NHS

What’s wrong with ‘local NHS’?

yours sincerely, Michael Pye


However, the real doozy was the fact that the leaflet consistently misspelt his promoter and publisher’s address (twice in this leaflet, and on four out of five different pamphlets sent to me). The address given is ‘The Pavillion 36 Duke Street Millham Cumbria’ [it should read ‘The Pavilion, 36 Duke Street, Millom, Cumbria’. Oops.]

As an aside, I’ve also just taken another look at the other four leaflets my local UKIP candidate sent me. In them the two that mention his address call the road ‘Daleview’ (it is, in fact, ‘Dale View’), one has the wrong mobile number (an extra digit has been randomly inserted), one gives his email address as (which won’t get you anywhere if you try and contact him), one gives a non-existent postcode (there is no ‘CLA18’ area, no matter how hard you look) and one not only spells the publisher’s building and town name wrong but also dispenses entirely with the word ‘Street’ and the postcode!

I guess I’m only left with the option of voting for the party whose candidate hasn’t actually sent any literature out yet – the Greens. Of course, that may all change come tomorrow’s post…