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The Proof is in the Proofreading


It's every copywriter's worst nightmare. After several (sometimes dozens) of rounds, copy is finally approved, type is set, the files go out, the job is printed, and ... there's a typo! 

(Cue the slashing/screaming soundtrack of Psycho here.)

Typos happen. Maybe the client added a new bullet point at the last minute. Maybe the art director had to re-key in a headline because he was doing something funky and fabulous with the font. Maybe no one checked the 800-number. Maybe the copywriter was tired or multitasking or on vacation. Or maybe someone actually didn't know the difference between compliment and complement. Or its and it's. Or there, their, and they're.

There's always a reason. But, there's never an excuse.

When you think about all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a campaign — from creative strategy to creative concept, headlines, copy, and calls-to-action, art direction, design, and layout — it's (yes, that's the right one) a shame if one measly misspelling or grammatical error gets in the way of sheer perfection.

Or, even worse, gets in the way of results.

Your teenage son or daughter may not think that typos matter (after all, how can you carry on multiple text conversations on your iPhone if you're worrying about spelling, capitalization, or punctuation). But, your customers and prospects may disagree. Sloppy campaigns imply that your company is ... you guessed it ... sloppy. 

The best example? A cover letter from an aspiring copywriter who assured us that she was an excellent proofreader. The sentence appeared in between two paragraphs with typos.

So, how do great proofreaders make certain that they catch every mistake? Here are a baker's dozen tips that will help you proof:

1. Put the copy aside for a little while (longer than that if you can). Fresh eyes can make a difference.

2. And speaking of fresh eyes, ask a colleague to proof your work and you proof his or hers.

3. Read the copy out loud. This will help catch mistakes and also help you "hear' the music of the copy.

4. Read the copy backwards. This can help you catch individual words that are incorrectly spelled. (If you read it beginning to end, your brain may play tricks on you, filling in missing letters or correcting for context.)

5. Use spell- and grammar-check software — but only as a first pass. Don't count on these tools alone.

6. Print it out, then use a pencil, ruler, or other pointer to keep yourself from proofing too quickly.

7. Double- and triple-check proper nouns: people's names, product names, etc.

8. Call the 800-number; visit the URL; look up and verify the street address.

9. Put yourself in the recipient's shoes. Does the copy flow? Is it logical? Do any instructions or steps make sense?

10. Pay close attention to type in italic, in footnotes, or in fine print.

11. Insist that everyone who is supposed to review the copy actually signs the document. (You'd be amazed how much more carefully they'll perform the task if they have to put their John Hancock on it.)

12. Create a cheat sheet of common mistakes and be sure to check for them.

13. Keep copies of your brand standards, a dictionary, thesaurus, Strunk & White, or any other editing guides nearby. If in doubt ... look it up!

We've worked with some incredible proofreaders. They are wise and wonderful people with encyclopedic minds and endless patience. For most of us, though, proofing is one of a project's necessary evils. 

Hopefully we've helped convince you on the "necessary" part. 

And, hopefully, these tips will make proofing a little less "evil." 

Just remember. Its always benefical when marketers proofreading there work as best they can.

Hte end.

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