Creating Error-Free Copy

The human eye may not be able to catch every error, but striving for the perfect piece of copy starts with a few simple proofing measures.

It’s not unusual to read the New York Times and see an error or two throughout the columns. The newspaper even has a column dedicated to their mistakes. Or maybe skimming through Vanity Fair there’s an obscure, almost unnoticeable typo in one of the Spotlight columns. It just happens. But, making sure the best possible publication is being printed and sent to consumers’ doorsteps is always the goal.

Most of the time, common errors slip through because we aren’t looking for them. There are some tricks for catching those editorial goofs before they make it to the publishing stage.

What’s in a name?

Maybe not much to you, but misspelling a name is a big no-no in the editorial world. Not only can it insult the person whose name is spelled wrong, but it’s also a factual error. Take a quick glance through the copy and make sure the name is spelled consistently throughout. Never guess how to spell someone’s name, always ask for correct spelling, Smith could easily be Smyth.

Read it out loud.

It may feel silly at first, but reading a piece of copy out loud will help catch typos that you might miss after skimming the same piece over and over again. Misspellings, extra periods and unnecessary commas that you otherwise overlooked become glaringly obvious.

Double check double spaces.

Yes, every time you read the copy or proof it before being published, check for double spaces. Those suckers often show up after minor edits to the copy, and can make an otherwise flawless piece of copy look odd. Also, remember that the days of the typewriter are over, there’s no need for the old-fashioned double space after a period. Let that old habit die and stick with one space.

Keep a checklist.

If combing over a piece of copy again and again makes your brain weary, a handy list of the most common mistakes made by you or your contributing writers can help keep you on track.

Check date/time/location.

They are scanned over more than you think. Again, take another look at those facts. Does the day of the week coincide with the date listed? Are the city and state correct? Remember that a.m. and p.m. need to be checked, 12 could mean midnight or noon.

Two sets of eyes.

It’s always better than one. A fresh set of eyes on copy can catch mistakes that one or more people who have read the copy skimmed over. After all, it takes a village to produce flawless copy.

No matter how many times you proof a piece of copy before it’s published, avoid glossing over a section just because you feel confident all errors have been caught. Remember new mistakes can show up during the editing process, and even the sharpest reader can miss something.