Just a quick blog post to highlight two things The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course frequently strives to hammer home.
The image below illustrates both points very well.
Proofreading is harder than it looks...
Some of you will have spotted the error immediately. Most of you, I imagine, took a little longer.
Confession time: it took me a couple of minutes. Why? Because I immediately went searching in the small print and skimmed the heading. And why did I do that? Because it seems more likely that an error that had actually ‘gone to print’ is more likely to have ‘snuck through’ in a smaller point size.
I also have a theory that spelling errors are more difficult to spot when a word is captialized. Further, I think this problem is exacerbated when the error is ‘concealed’ among similarly configured characters. Here, we have MULITIGRAIN, with the error hidden in this cluster: LITI. All those comparable bars and stems is a recipe for disaster.
This is why, in The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course, I make a point of telling my readers never to criticize anyone for missing an error. Even other proofreaders. Especially other proofreaders. Because we all make mistakes. Or, in the case of proofreaders, we all miss mistakes. It happens.
The proofreader (assuming there was one) who signed-off the artwork for this item of packaging will be kicking themselves and will doubtless be on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from their employer or client.
In The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to dealing with this kind of thing (Chapter Eleven: What to Do When It All Goes Horribly Wrong). One of the most important steps is letting your employer or client know what steps you’ll be taking to ensure his kind of thing doesn’t happen again.
In the case of the MULITIGRAIN incident, there is one step the proofreader could have taken which would have dramatically highlighted the error.
What is it?
Use your ears.
For as long as I’ve been proofreading (since 1989!) the notion that you should read the proof aloud has been common practice. Whilst this is very effective, and I strongly recommend doing it, it has one drawback. You are speaking aloud what your eyes are seeing. If your eyes don’t see the error, chances are you’ll simply say aloud a corrected version of the word or words.
Thanks to modern technology, there’s a solution. Text to Speech. With free online software like Zamzar, it’s a cinch to convert a text, Word or even PDF file to MP3 format. Then you simply ‘listen to the text’. An error like ‘mulitigrain’ will jump right out at you.
...and needed more than you think.
So, here’s a spelling error that can cause reputational damage and incur significant costs to put right and there isn’t a publisher or editor anywhere in sight. It’s on the packaging for a loaf of bread!
So, who would be responsible for this? Well, a marketing and design agency is very likely to have been involved. That agency will have employed a graphic designer, possibly an artworker and a copywriter. They may have also employed the services of a proofreader. So, marketing and design agencies are a great source of work for a proofreader. It’s also possible that this piece of packaging was produced in-house. Which means the eagle-eye of a proofreader was required by a high-street retailer.
This, my friends, is the motherlode of proofreading opportunities, the big wide world of ‘Everything That Isn’t Books’: brochures, catalogues, leaflets, flyers, manuals, reports, bids, prospectuses, websites, e-shots, social media campaigns…
Proofreaders are required wherever the printed word (be it in ink or pixels) is used. When printing errors have the potential to cause significant reputational damage and incur big costs, that’s where proofreaders are needed. Many of these businesses will be very aware of their need for proofreaders. Many won’t. Your job is to reach out and educate these people… before it’s too late!
Speak again soon,
If you think you've got what it takes to be a proofreader (of literary manuscripts or polythene packaging for baked goods), why not take a long, hard look at The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course? Click here for details.
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My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
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“As someone who has been proofreading for 30 years, I found Mike’s course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of the discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.” Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
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