We’ve all seen typos in official printed documents such as newspapers, brochures or advertising billboards. It does make me cringe when I see it, as it damages the credibility and professional image of the organisation involved. The cringe-worthiness is magnified when it’s a typo on a museum interpretation panel because, unlike most typos, those panels are likely to be in place for many years to come. So it’s important to get it right.

That’s why I’m a determined checker and proofreader.
That’s why I have a process.

Stage 1. Writing drafts
When I’m writing draft copy for museum panels I’ll invariably be concentrating on the story, the story flow and the interpretive qualities of the copy I’m producing. Admittedly, at this point, I’m less concerned about typos than I will be later down the line.

Stage 2. Client amends
Before I send each draft over to the client for amends, I’ll check it through for errors. But even then, I’m still wary of the fact that it might not be perfect. After all, that’s what drafts are for.

Stage 3. Artwork
After a couple of rounds of revision and once the client is happy with the content relevance, story accuracy and the narrative flow, I’ll send it over to the designer to put into artwork. But not before checking it one more time.

Stage 4. Proofreading
Proofreading should always be the final part of the creative process and should always be done when the copy is flowed into the artwork. It’s just not wise to proofread the copy before this point in the game as there’s always potential for changes to be made right up to the last moment. Even when we have made it clear that the process only caters for 2 x rounds of amends, clients (and designers) will sometimes tinker with the copy once it has been approved.

Despite having been checked previously by three or more pairs of eyes, you’ll be amazed at how often I pick up typos and the like in artwork stage. That’s because reading the copy in artwork is always more revealing than reading it on screen in a word processing package. We work with word processing software all day long, so the unfamiliar presentation of copy at the artwork stage will negate the eyes’ inclination toward a lazy, over familiar view it has in MS Word. Copy in artwork looks different, and so errors are far more apparent here than they are on our own screen.

Proofreading in artwork is more efficient.

Proofreading in artwork is more reliable.

That’s why I’m a big fan of proofreading right at the end of the process; because there’s no turning back once the copy has gone to print.