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Every copywriter’s worst nightmare

Every copywriter’s worst nightmare

Slack and Company | October 5, 2017

You see it. You blink and read the sentence again. Then again. And again...

It’s still there.

No. It can’t be. But it is.

You didn’t see it the first 300 times you read it before it went to print, but you definitely see it now.


Your heart starts beating faster. Sweat beads on your forehead. Your mind races.

How did this happen? More importantly, how are you going to fix it?

Whether it’s a misspelling, a missing word, a repeating word—every copywriter, at some point in his or her career, knows that sinking feeling deep in the gut.

The dreaded typo.

As much as we go around correcting everyone else’s grammar (yes, we’re aware it’s annoying, we don’t care) we, too, make mistakes. We are human, after all.

But don’t freak out. Okay, freak out a little. But one typo won’t end your career. In fact, it should make you a better writer. And a much stronger proofer.

One thing’s for sure—you won’t make the same mistake twice. So, if you left the “l” out of public, rest assured, you never will again.

So, how do you come back from a typographical transgression? A grammar gaffe? A spelling spectacle?

Sorry. We have a thing for alliteration.

Ultimately, it all comes down to channel type.

Pick your media below, then follow the five steps to redemption.

(Websites, videos, etc.)
1. Own it.

There’s no better way to make a bad situation worse than to shirk responsibility or blame others for a mistake made on your watch.

If it’s your copy, own it. If it’s your team, own it. Don’t sit on it hoping that no one will notice. Someone will notice. Trust us, it’s better to have it come from you than from your biggest prospect on the tradeshow floor.
2. Fix it.

This is digital. So, relatively speaking, it’s probably a quick fix. If it’s in a banner ad or on a website, you may have to hunt down an art director or a web guy or gal. But if you have to experience a typo, this is the kind you want.

If it’s a video or an asset created by an outside vendor—especially if it’s something created in a technology you don’t have access to—you have a slightly bigger challenge (and expense) on your hands.

Make sure someone in-house can’t fix it first. Then, reach out to the original vendor team and see what it would cost to have them alter the art. It’s usually fastest and easiest to have them make the fix—they’re the creators and they know their way around the files.
3. Verify it.

Before you hit “print” (or in this case, “upload”), have someone else proof the work.

It’s often difficult for writers to proof their own copy. Having a second (or even third) set of eyes on it is always a good idea.
4. Archive it.

In the digital world, mistakes are made when old files hang around with newer ones. Once the fix is made, make sure you “save as” with a new version and date, and immediately archive the incorrect file. Don’t even make the old file an option.
5. Proof it. Again.

Once it’s live, give it another look. Did the right file get uploaded? Are the changes showing up correctly?

Don’t assume that once it leaves your hands, it’s all good. Always follow up.
(Direct mail, tradeshow booths, etc.)
1. See: Step #1 for Digital.

Yeah, we realize everything’s gone to print, so it’s probably going to suck a lot more. You still have to do it. This is called “being an adult.”
2. Stop it.

This should really be 1.1. The second you realize the mistake, you need to get on the phone and see if you can minimize the damage.

Call the printer immediately and see if you can stop the presses. Or, in the case of a direct mailer, see if you can at least stop the piece from being fulfilled.
3. Cost it.

If it’s already been printed and/or fulfilled, you’re likely going to have some additional costs on your hands. Explain the issue to your vendor and ask for an estimate on the cost to reprint the job.

If it’s just a single panel of a tradeshow booth—it's probably not the end of the world, cost-wise. If it’s reprinting and fulfilling a high-end direct mail piece with varnish and gloss and custom die cuts, you may just want to leave well enough alone.

It’s probably not worth $100,000 to fix a double “and” in the last paragraph on page three.
4. Fix it.

If you do choose to move forward with the fix, this also might be a good time to bulletproof your internal process.

Make sure your routing process includes the right members of your team:
  • Original copywriter
  • Original designer
  • Creative manager
  • Production manager (if you have one)
  • Marketing manager
  • Someone else not working on the project (preferably someone with an English degree or writing experience)
You may also want to look at using a freelance proofer. They’re often reasonably priced and well worth the investment—not to mention, peace of mind. You can find some here and here.
5. Proof it. Yes, again.

Once you release the new file to print, have each member of your proofing team review the proofs from the printer—very closely—one more time.

And maybe again in the morning for good measure.

Finding a typo after the fact is an awful feeling. By all means, take a few minutes to wallow in your misery. Just don’t forget—you still have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Remember our guide and youll be fine!

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