4 Tips for Fast, Easy, Error-Free Proofreading
PATIENT: "Doc, it's a lot of trouble to proofread, and we end up with errors in the catalog anyway. Can we just stop proofing and use spell-check instead?"
CATALOG DOCTOR: "No. Take proofreading seriously. It's important for your brand (errors are bad for your image), customer service (errors annoy customers, causing complaints), profits (errors cost you credits and reships) and sales (errors confuse or irritate customers, losing you orders).
Proofreading needs and deserves to be done right. With the right system, you can make it easy on your team, catch all the errors and inconsistencies, and avoid all the cost and logistics problems that errors can cause. Here are four tips how:
1. Use several proofreaders, one for each proofing category. It's nearly impossible for a single proofreader to catch everything — attention gets divided and proofing steps missed. With a team, however, each member can focus on just one proofing category. Furthermore, the entire team can proof at once, so the whole job is done sooner. Try this team plan:
- Photo auditor: Checks that each photo matches that product and copy, and that the latest version got placed. Example: "That buckle was changed from nickel to brass, so yes, this is the latest Photoshopped version."
- Product copy auditor: Should be someone familiar enough with the products to catch errors, omissions and changes. Example: "Wait, we moved the zipper from the back to the side; we need to fix the copy to match."
- SKU/price auditor: Checks against the latest product price sheet to ensure all the product numbers, prices, colors and sizes are correct.
- Web comparison auditor: Types every SKU into the company's website search box to ensure that product is returned. Sometimes the catalog won't match the website. For example, the catalog has a hyphen in the number but the website doesn't, so site search won't work. The web comparison auditor also double-checks that products’ prices, sizes and colors are consistent from print to web, flagging any inconsistencies so they can be fixed in whichever channel is wrong.
- Grammar/spelling auditor: Do run spell-check first, but remember that spell checking can't catch everything a human proofreader can — e.g., the difference between "their" and "there." You need a well-read person in this role.
- Style auditor: Checks that product data comes in the approved order, that prices are aligned according to style sheet guidelines, that key lines aren't too fat or thin, that the fonts are correct, that trademark symbols appear where they're supposed to, and anything else to ensure the catalog matches your style sheet guidelines.
- Decision maker: Reviews all changes from the proofing team, then OKs or nixes each recommendation before passing the full set of changes back to the creative/production department.
2. Proof again vs. the errors/changes list. The proofing team needs to proof all changed pages against the original list of changes sent to the creative/production department to ensure all changes have been made, and made correctly.
3. Keep your style sheet updated. Were new decisions made during this catalog's proofing process? For example, did a new manager decide to always add a comma before the "and" in a list (debates are frequent on the "yes, use comma" vs. "no, don't use comma" style). Be sure that new rules get added to the style sheet for the next catalog cycle.
4. Call and click. Always actually call the 800 number (and other phone numbers) to be absolutely sure it's correct and working. This may seem silly, but it will avoid disaster and yes, I've seen disaster happen that could have been avoided by a simple call. Also, click on any URLs that are listed to double-check that the right pages come up.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.