Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > What to look for when proofing

What to look for when proofing

Once you have made the decision to spend the time, effort and money on creating and printing your group's direct mail out, you want it to be perfect.

You definitely don't want to pick it up the day after it goes out to find:
  • The name of your organisation spelt incorrectly
  • Your contact details missing or incorrect.
  • The wrong website address
  • A headline that reads: "Put headline in here"

These types of errors are the ones which can undermine or completely erase the good work your direct mail was meant to do.

It can also paint a less than professional picture of your organisation.  Some people will think, "If they can't write a letter correctly, what will they do with any money we donate?"

Completely proofing and re-reading your group's direct mail before it goes out is the only way to make sure these problems don't occur.


Preparing to proof

The most important thing about proofing your work is to do it properly.

A five-minute speed read of your group's mail-out material is not a proper proof read. Nor is a quick glance at your direct mail letter on a computer screen.

When it comes to proofing, rush jobs just don't do, all they mean is that you are likely to overlook errors which will be quickly picked up and pointed out by those who receive your direct mail.

To prepare to proof-read, you need to:

  • Firstly, get a copy of the proof.
    • If your group is doing its own printing, print two or three copies of the document onto the paper you intend using for you mail-out.
    • If you have organised for a printer to do the work, arrange for them to print two or three copies of the document onto the paper you are going to use for the mail-out.
    • Do not proof from a computer screen. Apart from needlessly damaging your eyes, a computer screen version of your document is not necessarily an accurate reflection of what it will look like on paper.
  • Allow plenty of time, maybe split over two sessions.
    • Make sure you have lots of time to go over your document; after all, it is a reflection of your group and should be treated as such.
    • Maybe split that time in half so you can complete an initial proofing, take a break and then come back fresh for a second session.
  • Get other people involved.
    • Having a couple of other people involved increases the sets of eyes looking at the document.
    • Involving someone who hasn't seen the document before is vital, in that they can look at it with as an 'outsider' and possibly pick up mistakes overlooked by those more familiar with the document.
  • Find a quiet room.
  • Have pens and pencils ready.
  • Use a red felt-tip pen to mark corrections and changes.
  • Have your original mock-up, version of your text, photos or information at hand to compare with the printed proof you are checking.



What to Check When Proofing

The proof your group prints out, or receives from the printer doing your job, is an exact copy of how the final document will look.

It is important to make sure the proof you have is printed on the same type of paper (or stock) as the final document. If your document is going to be printed on coloured paper, make sure your proof is on the same colour paper.

Check:
  • The clarity or sharpness of the printing – is the quality good enough?
  • Where sections of the document are printed in colour.  Is the colour the correct shade (especially important in logos or pictures) and sharp?
  • Pictures and logos are re-produced the way your group wanted them to. Make sure they are clear, not pixelated, blurry, too small or too big.
  • Whether headings are clear, make sense and are spelt correctly.
  • The text of the document contains no spelling or grammatical errors. Double-check the names of people, places and organisations, as well as acronyms. Make sure people's titles or positions are correct.
  • Make sure the text of the document is well-spaced and the font and point size are clear and easy to read.
  • The text might read well and be spelt correctly, but check if it is easy to read and does it communicate your group's messages clearly?
  • Captions to photos are correct, easy to read, and names within them are correctly spelled.
  • Look to see if anything has dropped off or dropped out of the document. Look at the edges of the page to see if anything has been cut off. Look particularly at pictures and logos to make sure they have not dropped out.
  • Check to see if the contact details for your group – phone, fax, address, email, website - in the document are correct. To double check this, dial the phone or fax number, visit the website or email the email address listed.



How to Proof

There are plenty of techniques used to proof documents and with practice and experience your group will eventually settle on a method it is most comfortable with.

Below are three quick proofreading methods:
  • Poring over each word and sentence in isolation, checking them outside the wider context of the document to eliminate spelling mistakes or typos.
  • Reading the document in reverse – starting from the last paragraph and working your way to the first.
    • This technique again allows you to examine each paragraph or sentence in isolation, and makes any spelling errors or typos more obvious and easier to pick up.
  • Reading the document aloud with one or two other people.
    • This is another very useful technique, especially when it comes to picking up sections of your document which may not quite sound right when read, or could sound better if written more clearly.
Finally, don't be afraid to take an extra few minutes to proof your document one more time using one of these methods – or one of your own.



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