Proofreading isn’t the most exciting part of the design process, and it’s definitely not the most fun. But it is one of the most important steps we take to produce consistent, impressive work for our clients. Because Porchlight is a design agency, the proofreading process for our projects involves a few more steps than just looking for the traditional grammar, spelling and punctuation errors found in text documents. When we proof a project, we look for all of those things, plus design-centric errors like incorrect alignment and use of wrong colors. Whatever pieces you proofread, the goal should be the same: produce clear, concise, correct work.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain
Twain meant that something as small as one incorrect word can change the entire meaning of a piece of work, and we have to agree with him. Let’s say you create the most mind-blowingly awesome packaging re-design for a famous shoe company. If you misspell the name of the shoe brand or use an incorrect color on the packaging, both the client and the potential customers’ eyes will gravitate to that mistake, which undermines all your hard work with one huge, tiny error.
Here are our top 5 tips for proofreading everything from documents to design projects:
- Use a Hard Copy. Print your project and run through the text and/or design elements one by one. For large portions of text, hold a ruler under each line as you review to help keep you focused.
- Take Notes. As you go along, you may see certain problems or errors appear multiple times. Write these “chronic problems” down so you can address those issues when you move on to Tip #3.
- Review Multiple Times. Check once for spelling, once for punctuation, once for sentence structure (if applicable), then read through looking for any “chronic problems” you wrote down previously.
- Don’t Trust the Original Author. Even if you wrote the original copy for the document or design piece, don’t trust what’s written. Double-check every fact, figure, address and proper name. (A quick Google search can be your best friend here.) If you’re proofing a piece of design work, look for websites and phone numbers. Call the numbers and visit the websites to be sure they lead you to the right place.
- Take Breaks. Your eyes will thank you if you give them a rest, especially on large documents and design pieces.
No one is perfect. You’re bound to miss something the first few times you read through your document or design piece. Ask a friend or coworker to be your second set of eyes. While you take a break, have them review whatever you’re proofreading. They’ll almost always catch something you missed!