Whose job is it to proofread your copywriting?

This isn’t another blog post about apostrophes – really. But it was an apostrophe that got me thinking.

This week one of those stray apostrophes turned up in my Facebook newsfeed – the kind of thing we copywriters all send each other so we lose our hair faster. This one was for pizza and announced ‘CLASSIC’S ARE BACK’ but then showed green peppers, mushrooms and orders correctly.

Of course it kicked off the usual despair at falling standards, but this time the comments covered something else too:

Whose job is it to put things right when you see a mistake?

We all know that it’s almost impossible to proofread our own work. We know what we think it says, so that’s what we see when we read it. Printing off a paper copy of something and reading out loud helps – and sometimes there isn’t anyone else to do it for you, so you just have to do your best.

One writer said it was the printer’s fault. But in all my years of print buying I never met a printer who would take responsibility for punctuation, or any other mistake for that matter. I worked for years with a designer who loved detail and language, and he often saved me from daft errors made in a rush. (Mountain peek was a good one.) But most designers won’t touch corrections unless they’re asked to make them.

What about clients? When we’re writing for a client, it’s down to them to sign off the work. But they do of course expect us copywriters to point it out if we think they’ve made an error (or spot one of our own).

So we keep our eyes open and do our best to be gentle. Calling it a typo can help to soften the blow. So the next time you spot a mistake in someone else’s work point it out kindly, and resist the temptation to say ‘na na ni na na’.

Any howlers?

We’ve all seen (or *gasp* produced) some classic slip-ups in our time. Got any memorable ones to share?