Today at lunch a business owner friend told me a proofing disaster story.

When her freshly printed brochures were delivered, she was SO excited! As she opened the first box, she joked, “I hope there aren’t any typos.” Much to her horror, she immediately spotted the prominent error—their web address was wrong! “Surely we couldn’t have missed that?” she gasped. But when she followed up with her print rep, he faxed over the sign-off sheet that showed her employee’s signature and OK. “Well, there went five thousand bucks,” she sighed.

Proofing disasters that make it into print take on nearly mythical status:  The Investor Relations 1-800 number on an annual report really belonged to an escort service. “Commmunications Committee” was spelled with an extra M. “Seatttle” on a business card address had three Ts. The catalog cover title, in 96-point type, read, “2004 Catolog.” The flopped photo showed a guy reading a book that sported backwards type. And my favorite—and my own personal typing mistake—the invitation intro read, “The Institute of Pubic Service invites you…” !

Disaster avoidance tip

Most typos happen toward the end of projects, when everybody is sick of looking at the laser proofs. And the people who miss the typos are those who have looked at everything just too many times. Last-minute changes are made, but the production artist isn’t given the time to spell check just once more. Or the proofreader is skipped. After all, there were just a few small changes, right?

Changes are much cheaper to make before the printer’s proof stage. At this point, it’s wise to show the final laser proofs to someone who can see them with fresh eyes. The first choice is a well-rested proofreader or editor. Other good candidates are the former English major in your household or the most detail-oriented person in your office. Be sure they call every phone number and try out every web address, too!

Pressman to the rescue!

My favorite disaster avoidance solution comes from a printer I do a lot of work with here in Seattle. The company has a standing offer to pay $100 to any of their employees who finds a typo on a signed-off project at any point before it reaches the bindery.

It turns out that their pressmen and feeders are ace proofreaders. More than once, they’ve saved my project by catching the error in time for it to be fixed, making me look really good to my clients! Each $100 is paid by the project’s print rep into the department’s pool. Both the prepress and press departments have made generous donations to charities and sent especially deserving co-workers on vacation!

What was your most memorable typo?