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Typo Terror

It is always strange when my dreams and work life get tangled in the dark. No amount of coffee can make vector-dreaming go away, nor can it make the fears of wrapping up a project diminish. Yet, upon finishing the largest (self-imposed) assignment of my life so far, it is with terror that I place my head upon the pillow each night, wondering what might jumpstart the waking of my speeding heart. Graphic Design, Referenced is comprised of 115,000 words, 2,500 images, and a complex grid: Elements that are all wide open to minute and gargantuan mistakes. Or both. After reading the comp (text and design) cover-to-cover twice — flooding page after page in scribbles, notes, corrections and queries in various ink colors — I can’t help but wonder if we missed something. Is there an extra space somewhere? Do elements misalign? Is a date wrong? Did we triple-triple check the spelling of every name included?

Typo Terror

A sampling of our marked-up copies of Graphic Design, Referenced. [Click on image for bigger view]

I would hate to answer Yes to any of the above, yet I know that once the book is printed and I sit down to read it once more I am going to scream-kick-groan-and-possibly-punch as I find the little details that evaded me before. How is it possible that two authors/designers, and their team of editor, proofreader, fact-checker, production manager, etc. miss these things? Part human error, part optical illusion, part exhaustion, part phone ringing in the middle of a sentence, part fear… So much is incorporated into each page that when you multiply it times 400 (pages) it is understandable that something be overlooked, yet I find it very hard to accept the presence of a typo. It has happened before, on smaller projects such as a brochure, a poster, a website, even in our two previous books (The Word It Book and Women of Design), and each time I curse the day we sent the files out the door, typo(s) included, with an oblivious FedEx driver as he drives into the sunset.

So what is the solution? It escapes me. But this experience has made me more understanding of the mistakes and incongruent texts I found in other books during our research. I am more tolerant of mistakes and I wish I could call or email each author noting my findings — hoping for a second edition for all, a chance to correct those typos that only a printed piece can reveal.

In the meantime I will have to keep my mind occupied and distracted with a new task, so as not to obsess too much as I wait for the bound book to touch the palm of my hand and reveal to me its flaws.

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PUBLISHED ON Feb.18.2009 BY bryony
Mark’s comment is:

Congratulations on the completion of this massive undertaking. I wish you luck with it.

Now, I hope that this doesn't cause you to have to spellcheck one last time, as this is not really a typo as such, but in this post you wrote '…is compromised of…'. This should be '…is comprised of…'. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

On Feb.18.2009 at 10:35 AM
Doug Bartow’s comment is:

So what is the solution?

Professional proofreader.

Added cost, but sleeping well is priceless.

On Feb.18.2009 at 10:39 AM
Greg Scraper’s comment is:

I've put together enough books, mostly full of facts and figures and text and callouts and chapter headers and footers and variable text and, and, and... that I can tell you that there is definitely something you missed, the proofreader missed and the production people missed. Also, it's wildly unlikely that all of you missed the same thing. There are probably errors you didn't know to look for. It's a staple of the trade; you just learn to live with it. I placate myself by acknowledging that I'm one of the few people who even knows where to look for the mistakes I made. Most people are trying to just digest the information, they're not scouring for problems. As long as I take care of the glaring errors, I'm able to sleep at night. Or at least that's not the thing keeping me up (it's more likely my 5-week-old son).

On Feb.18.2009 at 11:43 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

thanks, I stand corrected and have changed the typo.

Congratulations! one good reason to miss sleep.

On Feb.18.2009 at 11:49 AM
Amanda Woodward’s comment is:

Typo's just blow. We've seen some doozies. One was a giant headline... sometimes its the big things that get missed.

My website is incorrect in the Word It book :)

It just happens. We're only human beings.

Congratulations on finishing your large project!

On Feb.18.2009 at 05:30 PM
Ricardo Cordoba’s comment is:

I think that your careful proofreading, along with all those rounds of reviewing and marking up copy, will pay off in less probability of an error turning up... And I feel your pain! I hate spotting typos after a job's been printed.

Congratulations on finishing this huge project! Looking forward to finding it at my favorite purveyor of graphic design books. :-)

On Feb.18.2009 at 07:51 PM
Billy’s comment is:

Congratulations on finishing the book!!! I have only worked on one large scale book and had (on a much smaller scale) the same fears. There is nothing you can do. It doesnt matter to me if there are mistakes, I just can't to buy it. From what I have seen it will be the only design book I will ever need!

On Feb.18.2009 at 08:36 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> My website is incorrect in the Word It book :)


On Feb.19.2009 at 05:52 AM
Bruce’s comment is:

Typo, schmypo. Congrats on the new tome.

On Feb.19.2009 at 09:51 AM
Eva’s comment is:

Bryony, viendo las marcas y correcciones no pude evitar notar lo de Washington, D.C.
Si quieres usar Washington, D.C. en un contexto de ciudad y no como dirección la dejas con los puntos y siempre con una coma.
Ej. Estuve en Washington, D.C.
Yo vivo en 1234 A St NW, Washington, DC
Te dejo mi granito de arena, espero haber ayudado!

On Feb.19.2009 at 05:03 PM
Jon Parker’s comment is:

Bryony (and Armin), sleep tight and worry not. I'm sure the book will be up to your usual high standards, based in no small part on the assiduous habits and ever-raising editorial bar you've established with your Under Consideration sites, and the books you've written so far. I know your book will be a huge boon to designers and a worthy addition to the canon of design survey texts. I can't wait to see it!

(Shameless plug: For anyone looking for a design-savvy editor and proofreader, I highly recommend Veer's dearly departed editor, Lori Burwash.)

On Feb.19.2009 at 08:19 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

I read a book on codebreaking once that was riddled with typos. I imagined them to be a hidden communiqué within the text. A code, if you will. But they weren't. So, you know... they can be kind of fun. I guess. If they have to.

Good job.

On Feb.22.2009 at 02:22 PM
Rose’s comment is:

Two options for solutions:
1)have someone proofread that doesn't know anything about the subject; that way they are not reading into the subject matter.
2)read your entire text backwards; that way you are not reading into the subject matter.

On Feb.23.2009 at 11:41 AM
Alex Pearson’s comment is:

It may not really bring you direct comfort at this point, but to read any book or hold anything made by humans is to accept the errors. We have errors in our selves and anything we make can only be the same. So don't fret too much.

On Feb.23.2009 at 01:25 PM
Martha’s comment is:

As far as website addresses are concerned, we always try them out. Same with phone numbers. Rose's suggestion to have someone completely outside the project read it is a good one if you have the time; and also, if you can stand the 10,000 questions that result. If there's one mistake caught, it's worth it.

But, I've seen the same mistake get missed by many people over the months-long duration of a project. It's truly baffling.

Finally, if you have more than one proofreader, have small things like brochures and posters cross-read because proofreaders tend to get a little competitive, and will really scour for something their colleagues missed.

On Feb.23.2009 at 04:34 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

There are several interesting suggestions on how to go about avoiding typos from making it to press. Any other suggestions, especially for those with a tight budget?

On Feb.24.2009 at 02:20 PM
Martha’s comment is:

yeah, I have one other thing. I ALWAYS read my stuff for sense, in addition to reading it to a client mark-up or whatever hard copy I have. That's where I catch most mistakes, not when I read it to their copy, because then I'm too focused on matching what they have in their doc. This is especially critical for things that are heavily edited, or as we used to say, mark-ups that are bloody.

On Feb.24.2009 at 05:24 PM
Martha’s comment is:

oh, and look through your lasers looking at nothing in particular, if you know what I mean. Art weirdness tends to pop out at you more when you do that...

Lastly, (heh!), for more involved things like books, make a list of all your graphical elements; for instance, folios, running heads, running feet, chart styles, icons, sidebar features, what have you; and go through the book page by page looking only at ONE of those elements at a time. Don't let yourself get distracted from that one thing you're supposed to be focused on. Then go on the next thing on the list. You would be surprised much how that helps in catching the little anomalies in your format.

On Feb.24.2009 at 05:37 PM
Kevin M. Scarbrough’s comment is:

Amanda Woodward --> Register the new domain (your host will probably charge you the registration fee and little more). Add this in a file titled "index.php"



On Feb.24.2009 at 09:05 PM
Kevin M. Scarbrough’s comment is:

Amanda Woodward --> Okay, heh! That didn't work (the posting of the necessary code). Toss me an email and I'll send it to you. It's really simple.

On Feb.24.2009 at 09:08 PM
Mike’s comment is:

Wow, worrying about that would drive me crazy.
I was just listening to a podcast where an author was talking about one possible way of handling similar issues - using a version control system along with publishing. He uses it to keep track of typos after the first edition, then fix them for future editions, or set the permissions to allow publishers to "check out" the manuscript or even allow the public to check it out under a creative commons license. Interesting idea, but if it is anything like the Subversion program I'm sure it is a steep learning curve. You can read about it on his blog.

On Feb.25.2009 at 07:53 PM
Leslie’s comment is:

As someone whose day job is in-house designer and production manager, I can identify with that entire range of emotions: the intoxicating bliss of approving the proofs for press to the hair-pulling and anguish of receiving the final product and having to face that glaring mistake that, 8 times out of 10, only you care about.

Of course, the semi-silver lining is that you can only feel crappy for so long because you have to be onto the next project and can't dwell on the past. Acknowledging the error and growing from it, if you can, are the only ways to stay sane as a designer.

On Feb.28.2009 at 03:51 PM