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The Proof is in the Proofing

June 25, 2018  /  by  Diane Callihan

7 Smart Tips for Catching Errors in Your Marketing Materials

One of my very first jobs was as a proofreader for an environmental engineering company. I proofed countless, mind-numbing landfill reports. I learned the word “leachate” and the fact that some engineers have no sense of humor.

But I digress…

Now, 20-some years later, I find myself going back to my roots. While I’ve helped with proofing and QA at every agency I’ve worked at, recently, I’ve been doing it more than usual because we’ve been doing more print work.

While proofing is important regardless of the marketing channel, it’s easy to quickly fix an error on a website – hopefully before anyone even notices. But once something is printed, your mistake is FOREVER.

Not everyone is naturally good at proofreading. You have to have an eye for detail and a strong understanding of spelling and grammar. But I do have some tips to help you get better at catching those soul-sucking errors so you can save yourself and your company from total humiliation.

  1. Know the rules. Beyond the standard rules of the English language, you need to know the copy rules for your client. Make sure the brand names and product names are correct, and that registered trademarks are used when appropriate. If they don’t have copy guidelines, check their existing materials to see how they use certain words (e-mail or email, for example).
  2. Look for inconsistencies. Are some bullets using sentence case and others using all initial caps? Are some words being capitalized in some places but not in others? Make sure your formatting and language usage are consistent throughout the piece.
  3. Use spellcheck, but don’t count on it. “Public” and “pubic” are both real words that are spelled correctly, but you do NOT want to mix them up.
  4. Cross-check. If you have an approved copy doc that has been designed into a brochure, go through the copy doc and the brochure side-by-side, word-by-word to make sure they match and that no lines of text have accidentally been cut out or repeated. Do the same with any changes/revisions that may come in.
  5. Read everything. Read the headlines. Read the copy. Read the captions, disclaimers, page numbers and footnotes. Read everything there is to read, with the idea that there is a mistake hidden in what you are reading and it’s your job to find it. If it helps you, read it out loud.
  6. Take your time. This is a tough one, because proofing is often the last step before something is sent to the printer, and it’s often an afterthought. You need to make sure that proofreading/QA is built into your process and timeline, because you’re much more likely to miss something if you are in a rush. Think of it this way – your client will be a LOT madder if you print 50,000 brochures with a typo then if you ask for a little additional time upfront.
  7. Use multiple sets of eyes. Don’t put all the burden of proofing on one person. Even the best proofers occasionally miss something. Have multiple people review and approve the piece before going to print.

Need help creating kick-ass, error-free print collateral? That’s just one of the many things we do.

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