If you can’t afford to hire a professional copy editor or proofreader to review your marketing communications before final publishing, here’s how you can do a very basic proofread of the item by yourself.
These steps cover some basic items to look for, and they work best if your marketing piece is fairly simple, on one page, for example, and not text heavy. These steps also assume you have the “final” designed piece (digital or printed) in front of you, ready for your approval.
Put the piece away somewhere and don’t look at it again until the next day.
Read it again slowly and calmly for sense and flow, and verify that the main message is clear overall. Since you’re about to go live with this piece, you shouldn’t be making any major content (or design) changes.
Now look at it in more detail. Read it again from the beginning. Review each and every word for spelling, especially proper names. Misspellings are the worst error to miss.
Verify that any dates, times, phone numbers, and Web or street addresses are correct.
Now look for space issues. Look for extra spaces between paragraphs, sentences, words and letters. There should be only one space between sentences, not two. Strange spacing in text (if it is not intentional) is awkward and off-putting.
Check if any text is accidentally cut off or covered up by something in the design, making it unreadable, or if text has somehow dropped out. Missing text or covered text errors are especially sloppy.
Submit your changes to your Web or graphic designer.
On the revised version, check that your changes were done correctly. Glance at the whole piece again and verify that nothing else was changed by accident. If everything looks good, then you’re ready to approve. If not, go back to step 7.
What about grammar or punctuation? If you have a doubt, you’ll have to consult the copywriter who wrote the piece.
Around the mid-2000s, I was riding the LA Metro trains a few times a week across town to my workplace. I had plenty of time to observe the neighborhoods I passed, the type of people who rode the train, and to study the advertising campaign LA Metro was using.
The campaign had great consistency: an image area, a short paragraph, the logo, the website, all in predictable places in a poster-size layout. The copy was brief, personable and funny, which is welcoming and unusual to see from a transportation company.
Unfortunately, I never took a photo of any of the numerous posters I saw. Here is one that shows the format, though I don’t remember seeing it:
An online search for samples of the posters brought up another attention-getting transportation campaign: the award-winning video for Metro Trains Melbourne in Australia called “Dumb Ways to Die.” Watch:
I almost thought there was advertising on this egg as I was about to crack it open, or some message to make me feel good about eggs. The writing was large enough to be noticed! But no, it was just a note about the date it wouldn’t taste good anymore. There’s a marketing opportunity here, whether that’s a good thing or not, for the product maker.
However, if I had had to review this small bit of copy, here are some things I’d be questioning: Is it missing a period at the end? Not necessarily; it could be like a headline or title. Leave as is. Is the style of the date OK? Check the house style guide. The justification OK? Are we limited to what the machine in the factory that marks the egg can print? Details, details. This is what copy editors and proofreaders do.