You saw what I did there, didn’t you? …Or did you? Just testing!
Having been fortunate enough to work with websites and online content, it has become very easy to correct my mistakes. With just a few clicks, a mistake can be remedied, leaving no trace it was ever there. Unfortunately, with printed material, things aren’t so forgiving.
Back when I was producing mainly print designs, I had my fair share of embarrassing moments when the delivery from the local printer turned up. It’s a horrible feeling. Especially when several thousand pounds have been spent on having your design printed, to then be posted to thousands of customers.
There are, however, some important tips to help prevent that kind of situation happening.
Check, Check, and Check Again
I can’t stress how important checking your work is.
Don’t rely solely on your software to do all your spell-checking for you. Yes, they can be useful aids, but they’re still nowhere near smart enough to understand the complexities of human language. You may well have spelled all the words in a design correctly according to the software, but don’t forget:
- Some software may be limited to USA spellings, or you might not have changed your dictionary language
- Some industry/business phrases, acronyms and words won’t ever appear in a real dictionary, so these will require manual checking
- Not all spell-checkers check for correct capitalisation
- Context: most spell-checkers can’t tell you if a word is (or isn’t) in the right place
- Correct punctuation is again related to context, and can’t yet be fully understood by our everyday software
Spell-checkers are named what they are, because that’s exactly what they do: check spelling. But there’s so much more to language than simply spelling. Think of it like a car—you might have all the correct individual parts, but if they aren’t put together in the right way, you won’t be going anywhere.
Two Pairs of Eyes are Better Than One
If you’ve been creating the design yourself, you’re likely ‘too close’ to the project to be the only proof-reader involved. This can easily blind you to your own errors. You can repeatedly miss an error in your own work, whereas someone else will immediately see it.
It’s always, always best to have someone else proof-read your work. It’s good to have a colleague available to check your work before it gets committed to print and seen out in the real world. Even if you think you’re the most competent person with the English language in the world, don’t underestimate how important it is to have someone else’s eyes giving your work the ‘once over’.
Even if you don’t have someone on hand to proof-read your work, it can sometimes help to print your design on your office printer. For some reason, seeing it on physical media can help you spot errors in your own work.
Mistakes Incoming, 12 O’Clock!
Because of the sheer amount of designs we deal with on a daily basis, we do quite often spot spelling mistakes on artwork supplied to us. In these instances, if we notice the mistake early enough, we notify customers of the error before it gets passed through to our production team, and allow the customer to make the call on whether to re-supply the design or go ahead. If the mistake has already been printed, there’s little we can do to help, sadly.
This is again another reason to have spelling checked: mistakes can be costly, especially when dealing with large-format prints. If the text is large, the mistake can be glaringly obvious too!
Mistakes: Learn From Them, You Must
If you’re in a position where you regularly churn out design work or create content, mistakes will happen—it can’t be helped. But as I’ve said above, things can be done to reduce the chances of mistakes happening.
The best thing to do when they do happen is to learn where things went wrong. Was it a mistake in the content supplied to you? Was it not passed on to someone for proof-reading? It’s worth trying to find out where the mistake occurred, not to apportion blame, but to help avoid similar things happening in the future.
Unfortunately, the blame for mistakes will normally be laid at the feet of the last set of eyes that saw the work before it went to print. However, having worked in that process for over five years in my previous job, I do have much sympathy for the designers. At one point, we got so fed up of being blamed for every mistake, we ensured a proof-read by the department manager was required before anything could go to print. It was another step in the process (albeit a red-tape-esque one), but it was important for both our protection and the improvement to the quality of the work we sent out.
Oh, and if you found any mistakes in this post, they were of course deliberate! 😉