When Hudson's Bay left P.E.I. off a t-shirt featuring a map of Canada back in 2017, I was left baffled. Beyond the fact that this is something that should be engrained in every Canadian after years of filling out blank province map worksheets in grade school, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it could have been avoided through a simple Google image search. Yet this wasn’t an isolated incident. Gap recently had to apologize for selling a t-shirt in Canada with an incorrect map of China, which left out Taiwan and islands claimed by Beijing.
But it’s not just errors on t-shirts that are making headlines – sometimes it’s the oversite of the bags they’re shipped in. Take it from ASOS who tweeted earlier this year "Ok, so we may have printed 17,000 bags with a typo. We’re calling it a limited edition," after sending to print shipping bags that spelled online as “onilne”. Luckily, they were able to turn clumsy typing fingers into a social media win – but at the end of the day, this is something that can be easily avoided through some good old-fashioned proofing.
Here are my lesser-known tips for proofing that I’ve accumulated over the years working with clients that have saved me the heartache of sending something to print with an error:
Read forwards, backwards, upside-down and out loud: Beyond giving your piece a read through for flow, reading sentence by sentence, bottom to top will force you to look at each sentence individually so you can isolate for errors. I also find that looking at something in a new way can help you catch things you wouldn’t normally see – I’ve caught alignment issues before by looking at posters upside-down! And finally, reading out loud can help you catch tricky errors that can be hard to see when reading silently. You’ll notice these errors more obviously when reading out loud because all of a sudden reading becomes awkward and clunky.
Get it in front of eyes that aren’t yours and aren’t involved: Okay, so this one isn’t “lesser known” but it is so important it deserved to be on the list. Get someone else to give your work a quick read. Not only can that person catch typos, but they can give you feedback on whether you’re getting your message across clearly. Bonus points if that person isn’t involved in what you’re working on, because if someone who is seeing it for the first time gives it the okay, you’re good to go!
Look before you hit send: This is such a small thing that can make such a huge difference! When you have many versions floating back and forth, make sure you actually open what you’re attaching to an email before you hit send. It provides you one final opportunity to look for last minute errors, but it also gives you the piece of mind to know you sent the right version!
All being said, take the time to make proofing an important part of your creation process again so you don’t have your own version of a incorrect t-shirt map on your hands! And as it goes with writing an article about proofing, I’m sure this article has a typo somewhere so please let us know (I’ll consider your feedback part of tip number two)!