This is what I’ll call a proofreading war story. It’s an example of what happens when you ASSUME.
My practice is that I cannot assume. I simply cannot assume anything. I either know it, or I verify it by looking it up, or draw attention to it by notifying the client. I cannot assume; I will not assume.
Now you know that I do not assume. For instance: I do not assume that an unusual name is spelled correctly, simply because several principals have reviewed the content. If it rings a bell for me, I’m going to verify the spelling.
Assumption leads to errors. My goal is to eradicate errors or to repair them.
Let’s proceed. This tale took place in the mid-1990s. A satisfied client referred me to a small ad agency. I did a couple of jobs for them. Great; fantastic! Everyone is happy. Yes, I found errors lurking in the beautiful brochure that 17 professors (so I’d been told) had reviewed, looked at, discussed, and pronounced fit to print.
All right—the beautiful brochure (and it was really well-done) was nearly there. The entire thing was faxed over to me for review—except the back cover. I called them up and said, “Hey, the back cover page didn’t come with the fax.”
And I was told: “We’re not sending that because nothing changed on the back.” [UH-OH. Danger, Will Robinson!]
I should have replied, “I really need to see it to judge whether anything ‘changed’ on the back or not. Just because no edit is made certainly does not indicate that nothing changed. The keyboard could have been bumped and given you an extra character or something.” But I didn’t say that.
So, I did a mark-up of the content and faxed back the marked pages, of which there were only a few.
The last step of this process was the brochure going into blueline stage. “A blueline is a type of contact proof, so named because it is created by having the negative come in contact with a special type of paper.” [Source = http://desktoppub.about.com/od/glossary/g/blueline.htm]
Now, the owner of the small agency did not send me the blueline proof to review to ensure my changes were done. He checked it himself; all my marked edits were done. And next, the beautiful brochure, a $10,000 print job, PRINTED. Yes, it printed, and centered on the back cover it proudly said:
University of __________? Yep, the city was GONE, missing, not there, omitted, vanished, disappeared, stolen, sucked into the upper reaches of a vast nothingness.
Because at the time only graphic designers knew Photoshop and the design packages, the designer was able to supply a confusing line of double-talk to cloud the issue. I called up an expert I worked with and questioned her. She said, “Sounds like an overlapping text box covered up that word.” Yes, you can have an empty text box, or empty image holder, and it might obscure other things.
Wow! UNIVERSITY OF _____________ on a 10-grand job! Thankfully I was able to prove I’d asked for, but not received the all-important back cover.
“Why didn’t you get me the blueline?” I asked the agency owner.
“I didn’t have time,” he answered. No time—but time is money, right? He had to come up with the additional money to re-do that print job. Paying to re-do it took the time he supposedly didn’t have, plus the extra money. It would have been a huge blow to lose his client, The University of _________.
Years later, having worked with Photoshop, Quark, In-Design, etc., I understand how these things work. It does not make me a designer, but like they say, knowledge is power. You can never stop learning.
The moral of this story is Do Not Assume! Hire an experienced proofreader/editor and let them have at it! You, as the client, remain the final decision-maker.