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The Power of Proofing and the Importance of Checking Your Work

Somewhere along the lines of fifth grade I believe we were all introduced to the idea that you should check your work, yet my high-school age sons still submit assignments riddled with oversights and simple mistakes. On the yearbook staff in high school, every page (or quad-pack as they were called at the time) required the signature of two editors before going to press. This is where I mastered my physician-quality autograph. When I used to print a lot of large press runs, the printer would stop the presses and courier a press sheet off the 40″ Heidelberg to my office so that I could inspect their work and provide an approval to run the job.

In the era of everything digital, online and in a hurry, folks lose track of the importance of details and neglect to check their work. You should always print your documents and read the text backwards — just like we learned in Kathy Latour’s proofreading class –in order to truly check for punctuation and spacing mistakes.

Just because your printer sends you a digital proof doesn’t mean that you should be content viewing it on screen (and not just because the color isn’t accurate on your screen). A digital proof from your designer or printer may look fine on screen but you need to print it out to experience the scale of the work. Your postcard may look great on screen but in the palm of your hands you may discover that the designer required 9-point type to fit in your superfluous copy and now it is unreadable by any adult over 40. Take your time to get it right and it will save you dollars and headaches in the future. Turn it upside down to really view the artwork and not focus on the text and you’ll discover all kinds of issues that may otherwise get past you.

A friend recently learned this lesson the hard way. In his enthusiasm to place a last-minute order for personalized YETI cups for his staff, he submitted the order with a trusted online provider and declined the offer of a proof. The hardship of this lesson was the delivery of 48 cups proudly displaying his old company logo, the file that the trusted provider had on file for him and didn’t know to replace. Now the cups are really swank but the friend is a bit embarrassed and uses this as a teaching lesson for his team.

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