Common Mistakes: Prevention

September 13, 2007: Issue 204

A few unfortunate slip-ups have made it into our magazines lately. We don’t like to dwell on the negative, but we would like to make some suggestions to keep those particular errors from happening again.

When you insert dummy copy into a live layout (to fill out a short line, for instance, or to adjust to a change in the size of a text box), make that type a bright, unmistakable color. Magenta at 100 percent usually works. The dummy type is far less likely to slip through the final stages of proofing that way.

Any proper name in a hed or dek should set off a warning in your brain: Check me! Make sure the name, whether it’s a person or location, matches the name in the story. We don’t get any points for spelling Mississippi correctly in the hed if the location is really in Missouri.

Don’t zone out while you run spell-check. It’s easy to get lulled into the click-click-click groove as you tell the program to ignore soffitcabinetry, and other perfectly good words it doesn’t like—not to mention Web addresses. Slow down enough that you’re aware of what you’re bypassing, and don’t try to multitask; this is not the time to listen to your 17 phone messages. In short, spell-check is an aid in careful proofreading, not a substitute for it.

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