Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Dear Salutation"

A retailer sent me this postcard last month (I've taken out the company name). What caught my attention was the opening line.

"Dear Salutation"

This proofreading error reflects a deficiency in the production process, as opposed to grammar or spelling. Here's how it easily could have happened:

1) A copywriter was employed to write the text for the postcard. The copywriter used the placeholder "Salutation," as is common practice, to show where the customer's name should go (e.g. "Ms. Lee Lockhart" in my case). The copywriter would have expected the production department to insert the customer name in the space where "Salutation" appears, so my card would have said "Dear Ms. Lee Lockhart," whereas someone else's could have said "Dear Ms. Jones."

2) The copywriter's text was sent to a graphic designer, who designed the postcard using the writer's copy as provided. The graphic designer may have been a rookie (unfamiliar with the use of placeholders like "Salutation" in copy) or may have been asleep at the wheel... or maybe it was someone else's job to coordinate the merge of customer names with the layout, and that someone forgot to. Either way...

3) The graphic designer's text went to print, as designed, with the placeholder copy intact.

Check your text and your process

My PR Major students know about a map that almost made its way into an annual report I was printing; the city names were all spelled properly (I had proofread them dozens of times), but I only realized after the final signoff (and mere hours before it was too late to catch the error) that some of the city names weren't in the right spots on the map.

That near miss haunts me to this day.

Proofreading has to go beyond checking spelling and grammar - check every part of the production process for errors.

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