The Editorial Apartment

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Reviewing recipes

Cookbooks can be fun to review (plus I like learning how to make new dishes). Last month, I proofread a collection of recipes for a client. This required a lot of attention to measurements and to the flow, structure, and format of the steps; ensuring the steps coordinated with the illustrations or photos; ordering the list of ingredients; and many, many other things.

Following a recipe
Recently, I made applesauce using this recipe I found online, halving all the measurements because I only had three apples:

Applesauce recipe

Source: Food Network

After the cooking was complete, my apples were soft but still had their cut shapes. “They forgot to say something about mashing the apples. This recipe wasn’t edited!” I complained. Even though it was obvious you might have to mash the apples, the step should still be included.

The revised recipe
Weeks later, when I did have six apples, I made another batch of applesauce, and it was clear. The apples mostly dissolved into mush themselves. Hence, there was no need to mention mashing them—except I still would add that step, as I don’t know whether what happened to my apples was because of the number of apples I used or the variety.

The same recipe instructions, cleaned up, might look like this:
Peel and core the apples and cut them into quarters. Place them in an enamel saucepan with the water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down slightly and simmer 30 minutes to break them down and get them to thicken. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the sugar and cinnamon, if using. Mash any large chunks of apple that remain.


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The basic proofread for marketers with a small budget

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.

  1. Put the piece away somewhere and don’t look at it again until the next day.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Verify that any dates, times, phone numbers, and Web or street addresses are correct.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Submit your changes to your Web or graphic designer.
  8. 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.

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Common places for copy errors on a website

websitemenusWhen asked to review already published websites, I find that copy in the more functional parts of a website, namely in these three places, can get neglected:

  • Drop-down menus
  • Menus within menus
  • Field names and drop-down menus in forms

The text in these areas often have errors in spelling, casing and alphabetizing, and sometimes in sense and wording. This text is easily overlooked, as it is hidden from view until you click on or hover over something else. With forms, the focus seems to be more on the amount of field space provided.

Be sure to review every bit of copy on a website, not just the main content; all of the text is important.