There Errors Are Your Errors

Once upon a time, I worked at a studio where every file had to be checked by three people—the creator of the file, the proofreader and another designer or production person—before it went out to the printer. Every file, every proof, every time.

I’m a perfectionist, but that seemed like overkill even for me. But…we caught things. And we caught them early while there was still time to fix the image or typo without incurring major costs (or dare I say it, before having to reprint the piece).

A fresh pair of eyes saw things that I overlooked because I was too close to the project. But that was then, and this is now. Today, everyone is doing the jobs of three people, and budgets are tight. Who has the time and money to let three people check a project?

Then again, who has the time and money to reprint a job, or miss a deadline, or upset and potentially lose a client because of a less robust review process?

What does your conscience tell you?
Which brings up a very good question: What do you do when you spot an error?

I’m not talking emails here. They come and go and are easily forgotten. I’m talking ink on paper. You get a file from your client “ready to go” as they have assured you. But your well-trained printer eye spots a typo, a missing line, a blurry image—something that is at odds, or at least questionable.

So now you’re stuck between the infamous rock and a hard place. Do you print what the client gave you and make that super tight deadline? Or…?

I’m on the “or” side of this equation. It might not always make me the most popular person in the room, but I have my clients’ best interests at heart. So I’d rather pick up the phone and confirm that X was really intended instead of Y.

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 

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  • Alan

    You should proof read you header before sending to the publisher.

  • Proofing in FL

    Like when it should be "Their" instead of "There"? Never easy to catch things when you are close to something and have been head deep in it…….what at least a 2nd set of eyes should be for……

  • John Duval

    @ Sabine, I couldn’t agree more. It seems the proof reader positions are among the first to go in any "Cost Cutting" move. This means I must be even more vigilant in checking proofs and print ready files before they get back to the client.

  • Chip Weingart/Alpha 21

    We had a ten person shop several years ago, and two of the staff were full-time proof readers. The same proof would be read by each person and they would initial the proof. As mentioned in your article several times if one person didn’t catch a typo or error, the other did and sometimes it would be necessary to contact the client for clarification. Your are right on the money, when you said the client was very appreciative that an "extra set of eyes" looked over the project before it was printing and part of history… And never rely on spell check, grammar check or any other automated program to do a "human’s" job.

  • Patti

    I just had this happen this morning. Printing a Christmas card for a client and saw the image didn’t fall where it should on the fold/score line. It could have been the way they wanted it, but wanted to check and make sure.

    They were incredibly appreciative for seeing it. And… they emailed me later to thank me again! They said that’s what makes us better than a big competitor we have. It was nice of them. It only took 5 more minutes from my day to make it right. Not like the old days. New art, new negatives, striping again, new plates. A simple fix now. There’s no excuse to not look over the piece. There are times when "time" is incredibly pressed, but I consider it part of our job.

  • Robert Brownridge

    When I am consoling a grammar Nazi, I say "There, their, they’re".

  • Roark Clayton

    "There errors are Your Errors" ? Is this a test? I think it should be "Their Errors….", no? But still good article!

  • rob

    What if you have brought to the customer’s attention about an error and they still ok the proof and say print it ..Later they try to blame you for it..Whose legal responsibility is it ?

  • Jim Albany

    I like building up "brownie points" with my clients on things like this. You just know in this business there will be a day when you make an error or miss a deadline. The brownie points help to get that second chance!

  • Lena124

    Some of these comments are proof that when a human proofreads without comprehension, the quality of the copy is really no better than if one relied on a “spellchecker” alone. I’m surprised and also entertained by how many people who do not get the point of this article’s headline.

  • R. David Speller

    While she is at it, I think Ms Lens could spend a little time on grammar.
    "There" errors are your errors should be "Their " errors are your errors….
    R D Speller, Toronto.

  • James

    I find it amusing how many people have commented on your headline, assuming you made a common error…all they did was prove that they didn’t read the entire article.

    There, their, they’re; your, you’re…the bane of the spellcheck generation. I’ve seen the incorrect version used in 100pt type on the front of the local newspaper! Since I’m on a first name basis with the publisher, I called over when I saw the mistake. I prefaced my call with "I’m sure you are getting lots of flak over this…" The response? "’re the only one who noticed." I cried…