We can't say enough, here at the garden, how important it is to proof your yearbook thoroughly. VERY thoroughly. After all the hard work and dedication you and your yearbook team have shown this project, the proof is in the PROOFING!
Your hard work is done. You've submitted your book and waited patiently. Finally, the day is here! Those boxes show up and you can't wait to get them open. VICTORY! As you crack the spine of this year's yearbook for the very first time, you're elated. It's beautiful! But wait...what's that? How could you have missed that!? A typo. A dreaded, horrible typo. A typo that everyone will see. EV-ER-Y-ONE that ordered a yearbook. (Sigh). Suddenly you're seeing pics of the typo being shared on everything from Facebook to Twitter. The horror!
Whether it's the heading that reads "Principle's Message" or a name spelled incorrectly (there are a LOT of ways to spell a LOT of names), the effect is the same. Disappointment: not just for you, but for the kids and parents that have worked so diligently with you on this project. Seeing a mistake in print (a few hundred copies worth) is demoralizing, to say the least. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails quite like finding a blemish on your masterpiece.
So, how do you avoid this?
1. Create a checklist. This will breakdown all the things you need to look for, i.e. spelling, grammar, punctuation, facts, stats, names, etc. And don't just include proofing the copy. You should also be looking for photos cut off or obstructed by another object (especially check those bleeds and gutters!), design that is too cluttered, copy that is illegible because the background is too dark/light/whatever. Be sure to include all aspects of what makes your book shine - the writing AND the design!
2. Work on one item at a time. Using your checklist, just tackle one item at a time. It will be much easier to spot a spelling mistake if that's all you're focused on for the time being. If something else jumps out at you, obviously address it, but keep your focus on one item at a time and you'll be less likely to miss things - and less likely to feel overwhelmed!
3. Take breaks. Don't tackle the proofing all in one sitting. For one, you're butt will get sore. For two, it's better on your eyes to break and leave it be for a while before coming back to it. You'll be sharper, fresher and less likely to get a neck cramp!
4. NOT for your eyes ONLY. Speaking of breaks...when it comes to proofing, if you're the one in charge, make sure you take one one when you are finished with your initial round. After having looked at every page for, what seems like, the billionth time, it's safe to say your eyes may not see something that someone else's might. Just like it's important to keep your eyes fresh, it's important for a fresh set of eyes to have a peek. So even though proofing your yearbook might be YOUR baby, you'll have a much happier yearbook at the end if you let someone else comb through it as well.
Oh, and if you're working with a 'skeleton crew' and just don't think there are enough fresh eyes to do the work, it's time to call in the volunteers! You'd be surprised how many parents would love to help with something like this...for like $5 off their yearbook! And that school secretary? We'll bet he or she would be willing to go through the student roster to make sure everyone's name is spelled correctly for a simple gift card for a nice meal or coffee! We know, we know, the yearbook budget is tight. BUT, in the grand scheme of things, wouldn't you feel better knowing that you've done all you can to ensure that everyone is in the book and things are spelled correctly? (the answer is yes.)
5. backwords work your Read It may sound strange, but working in reverse order, starting with the last sentence and working your way to the beginning, can actually prevent your brain from reading what it KNOWS it should instead of what is actually there. So pull a fast one on your brain and switch it up by reading your work backwards! (This isn't to say you shouldn't read your yearbook from front to back as well. This is just an additional way to catch missing things that your brain so intelligently inserts so you don't even notice!)
6. Spellcheck. Dictionary. AP/Chicago Style Guide. Use 'em. There are a lot of great resources, both electronically and physical books. Although you shouldn't rely ENTIRELY on them, they are incredibly useful and should absolutely be a part of your proofing!
Beware: Think Spellcheck Will Save You? Think Again . Keep in mind that while spellcheck will save you when you've typed 'teh' instead of 'the', it's useless on student names and instances of words with multiple spellings but different meanings, like "their", "they're" and "there". And punctuation (or lack of) can drastically change the meaning of things! Going through your entire yearbook, word for word, picture-by-picture is necessary.
7. Read your text out loud. You don't need an audience for this (though hey, if you want it wouldn't hurt), but reading the text out load forces you to read each word individually. When you can HEAR the words, you may notice mistakes that your eyes might miss. Or your eyes might discover a typo because you have to slow down to read out loud. This is often a great way to find punctuation errors, like missing commas or periods.
8. Proof a hard copy. While proofing onscreen, especially using spellcheck, is great, we find printing out a hard copy can sometimes help catch things. Now yearbooks can be BIG and therefore a lot of pages. It might make sense to only print out the pages with chunks of text. Many yearbook publishers also offer printed proofs, so check with your yearbook representative if you want a fancy schmancy, full-color version to proof.
9. Don't forget the facts. Everything could be spelled correctly and placed perfectly, but if there are inaccuracies in your yearbook, it will quickly lose its appeal. Double-, no triple-check everything from scores to dates to quotes. Make sure everything is accurate and verified. Did the soccer team win Conference 3-2? Or was it 2-1? Did Marcus really finish his 400-meter run in 0:26 seconds? Is Drew aspiring to become a nurse and Kelly a pro football player, or was it the other way around? Part of proofing should always include making sure the information you are presenting is accurate.
10.Give it time. The worst thing you can probably do is leave little to no time to give your yearbook a thorough proofing. Okay, we take that back…the worst thing you can probably do is not proof AT ALL. But the second worst is rushing through it, especially when you have a deadline looming and there are other things competing for your attention. Be sure to carve out enough time to hit all the points above to ensure your yearbook doesn’t include a mistake that will haunt you for life. (Perhaps we’re being a little dramatic here, but we just want to reiterate the importance of proofing!)
We promise, we aren't trying to scare you (well, maybe a little). We have your best interests in mind. We want the work and dedication you've shown this year to be evident to everyone that picks up that yearbook! It's not the most fun step, but it will be one last step that you'll be so glad you took.
Remember these quick proofing tips to ensure your yearbook has been given the thorough look-through it deserves!
- Create a checklist
- Work on one item at a time
- Take breaks
- Let someone (or others) look with fresh eyes
- Read your work backwards
- Use Spellcheck, your Dictionary and AP/Chicago Style Guides—but don’t rely solely on them!
- Read your text out loud.
- Proof a hard copy.
- Don't forget the facts.
- Give yourself plenty of time.
Happy Proofing! (Emily, Emalee and Emilie will thank you)
The Idea Garden Team