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Avoid Costly Mistakes And Typos: Why You Need To Proofread

In any form of marketing, you have to know how to avoid typos. Mistakes in your print marketing pieces can be costly. In 2010, the Federal Reserve spent $120 million to print 1.1 billion redesigned $100 bills that were promptly put into a vault and rendered unusable. A creasing problem during printing caused about 30 percent of the bills to have a blank, uninked portion.

In 1962, the U.S. government lost $80 million when the Mariner 1 exploded shortly after its launch because of a missing hyphen; and in 1999, inconsistency between the design of Mars Climate Orbiter, in English measurements, and the navigation of the Orbiter, in metrics, caused the spacecraft to be destroyed when it entered its first orbit around Mars.

The U.S. government and its departments aren’t the only ones seeing negative results from printing mistakes and typos. Small mistakes that can — and should — quickly be caught are costing companies money, time, and customers on a daily basis. Despite the time constraints of many individuals who are hurrying to meet their next deadlines, proofreading and an overall attention to detail is vital to the success of a print or direct mail marketing campaign.


The Importance of Re-Reading and Double-Checking Your Print Pieces

Proofreading is a lost art. It is something that students learn, briefly, and then quickly abandon for automatic spelling and grammar checks. These automated checkers are excellent tools, as are the many Web-based programs that allow you to insert copy and check the document for everything from grammar to plagiarism. However, none of these are adequate replacements for the most basic of proofreading tools — human eyes and a writing utensil.

Both “you” and “your” are spelled correctly, as are “compliment,” “complement,” “effect” and “affect.” However, the differences between each option are vastly different. Companies that misuse or misspell words run the risk of several different, and sometimes costly, situations:

  • Loss of authority: Customers who are able to point out typos and mistakes in printed pieces tend to lose respect for the company. A typo shows the lack of attention to detail and a lesser grasp of the language. Repeated mistakes drive customers away from the company.
  • Loss of money: Some companies will continue to use pieces, even with small typos. While this may not cause them a financial loss up front, they may see differences later. These mistakes can lead to fewer customers or incorrect information that causes the company to lose money. Others may see the loss immediately, needing to re-work jobs with especially egregious errors.
  • Loss of time: Re-prints take time, and can set projects back days to weeks, depending on the size of the job and scale of the error. From updating the file to getting the project to and from the printer, one small typo can have an enormous negative effect on a single piece of print marketing.


Where to Look for Typos

In all honesty, each piece of content that is published should undergo a proofreading procedure. However, it’s much more important with print pieces. Online content, whether posted on social media or on your Website, can be edited. Some may have seen the error, but readers tend to be more forgiving online.

Once a mistake is printed, you can’t take it back. All pieces of print and direct mail marketing, from postcards and brochures to rack cards and business cards, should be reviewed and revised before sending the file to the printer.

  • Double-check the numbers, commas, and decimal points, which, if in the wrong spot, can be devastating in financial reports.
  • Pull out a calendar and review dates and times to make sure that when you print “Sunday, September 25,” it really does fall on a Sunday.
  • Watch the second letter in words that have been capitalized, which can sometimes be capitalized as well.


Proofreading 101: 6 Tips to Improve Your Print Marketing

  • Create a workflow that requires more than one person to read the piece and sign off on the file before it is sent to the printer. This should include the file creator, the content creator, and an outside proofreader or designer who was not involved in the development of the piece. Multiple pairs of eyes, especially those that are fresh from the project, help to prevent errors.
  • Use spelling and grammar checks with caution. They are handy tools, but should not be the only review of the file.
  • Read each word. This can be difficult when you are the designer or author, but is necessary to make sure the copy is clean. Some may find it helpful to print the piece in-house and trace each letter of each word, which makes it easier to find extra, or missing, letters. Others read backwards, which can present the same content in a different format.
  • Read out loud, which makes it easier to hear any incomplete sentences or incorrect words.
  • Take a break from the piece. Setting the project aside for a few days, or even a week, can give you enough time to forget the words and layout and return with fresh eyes.
  • Work with a professional printer and marketing company, who has experience reviewing pieces with dedicated proofreaders and trained staff.

To learn how we can help with your next project, contact us.

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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!