TURN PROOFREADING UPSIDE DOWN. There it is. In one brief sentence. An approach to proofreading guaranteed to help you find errors more quickly and more often. It works because reading the copy upside-down-and-backwards slows the proofreader down. It makes that person actually pay attention to what is on the page, without the mind wandering off. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. What’ve yo goat to looose?
Ed: In the publications shop at the Oregon State University College of Forestry, we edited and produced final text of academic articles that were destined for publication in scientific journals. In that situation, absolutely NO typo can be allowed, and we organized our production systems as much as possible around that tenet. I’ve never heard of turning the page upside down to proof it, but we had an editor who did what she called “backreading” to eliminate typos. She just read the whole thing from the end to beginning, and that forced her to see each word individually. It doesn’t help with meanings, so it might not have caught the headline error in your hint (“Mayor says city debt to high”), but it is an effective way to ferret out that one typo your eyes have passed over so many times. David Merrill IT and Graphics Manager Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Hi Ed: Just read your proofreading hint (the first one). You’re on the money when you say the person who wrote the story is way too close to it to be a good proofreader. A while back I brought our bookkeeper into the final proofreading process. Everyone thought I was nuts. She not only comes to it from outside the production process, she also doesn’t write, doesn’t do graphics or layout, and hasn’t seen any of the paper until an hour or so before we send it to the printer. The number of things she finds is sometimes staggering. I have her check jumps, headlines, the page numbers in the index, the volume and issue numbers, folio heads, all the stuff that no one else sees any more. She questions everything. Your second hint got me to thinking back to when we used to be letterpress and I learned to read galleys upside-down and right-to-left. The misplaced cap stands out like a sore thumb … I remember seeing lots of mistakes that way without even trying to read the words. Marc Stumbo Production Editor The Beacon Ed: Interesting points on the proofing of pages. I agree, no page designer should be his own proofer. He can and should review his page, but someone else absolutely has to be the main proofer. Had not heard of the concept of turning the page upside down, but have often suggested proofers read the headlines backward. No, I don’t mean backward as in—for another Beatles reference—something off “Magical Mystery Tour.” In other words, I don’t mean saying the words the way they would sound if spoken last letter to first. I think you know what I mean. Point is: say each word of the headline, starting with the last word and working toward the first. It slows you down and helps your eye NOT see what you expect to see. But who has time to proof whole stories upside down? In this day and time of reduced staffing, when 1 page designer is doing what 2 used to do, I doubt we have that luxury. Plus, I always argue that proofing is not to be equated with the main editing process. Even in a leaner newsroom, we should have an editor who is—well, editing. Obviously he is not just editing for typos and such, but for content. Still, there needs to be that time available. Next up, on a good day, a second set of eyes on a story BEFORE it is placed on the page. And when things are really, really good, that page designer who is also a copy editor who is also posting to the web who is also producing the newscast for the radio station the paper partners with in town who is putting the e-edition on the FTP site also gives the story at least a more-than-glassy-eyed once-over before placing it on the page. Now, you mentioned something else intriguing. Get someone in advertising to proof pages. I damn near lost my coffee on that one! Why? Two reasons: There might be a page with a story about an advertiser and the ad rep might try to turn editor instead of proofer, especially if the ad rep thinks it’s even remotely negative news. But reason number two is this: Rarely is someone from advertising in the building when the bulk of pages are being produced. Designers arrive about 3:30 and might get an advance page done before the 4 p.m. news budget meeting. Then they return to page design. Ah, but I do remember the days when someone from advertising had to be on hand when the paper came off the press for ad proofing. No more. Even that function has been left to page designers who are expected to know an ad was to run in color even though it was not designated as such, or catch a glitch that led to a 6×10 ad being compacted into the 3×5 space, etc. I even remember the days when someone from advertising actually had to be in on the holiday runs for the same reason. On another note, thank you for chastising the photogs who, for “effect,” simply tilt the camera and make me think I’m a reader who is on one of those doomed Carnival cruise ships! Always enjoy reading your stuff, sir. Richard Richard Whiting Executive Editor Index-Journal