Monday, July 5, 2010

Article Proofs?

Now here's something you don't see everyday. Article proofs. Yep. That's right. A magazine has sent me the page layout proofs of an article I've written, which they will be publishing soon (August issue, I think).

Over the years, I've written several pieces for Cumbria magazine and I've always been sent the page layout proofs for checking. I've never come across it with any other magazines, although I'm sure there are one or two out there that still do this. If you find yourself receiving such proofs, what should you do?

  1. Don't assume that because you emailed your text, the magazine has simply 'cut and pasted' it across to their systems. (Even if they had, you could still have made a submission containing errors!) Reread your text, and ideally, read it out aloud. It's common for editors to 'tweak' an article, either because they feel they can improve something, or because they need to apply the magazine's style to your piece, if you've not correctly identified every stylist nuance the publication has. (Do they use imperial or metric measurements? Are words ending with 'ize' preferred to those ending in 'ise'?) So, you need to check that any changes they've made are error free. (You may not think it, but editors are human too and sometimes, even they make mistakes!)
  2. Learn from any changes. If the editor has rewritten a sentence or paragraph, can you see why they've done it? Is it better than your version? What is it that they've changed that has led to the improvement?
  3. Check any picture captions. I supplied images for my article and the editor has chosen to use two of them, so it is important that the captions are allocated to the correct image.
  4. Double-check your facts. (Again! You should have done this before submission, but if you're offered proofs, this is the final opportunity for correcting mistakes.)
  5. If you spot any errors, be precise. Make a note of what is wrong and what the correction should be. If you have to return the physical page layout proofs, then use a red pen and identify the error and write the correction in the margin. If you have to email errors, then state specifically where the error is and what it is. (First column, fourth paragraph, third sentence ...)
Finally, don't forget to enjoy it! It is, after all, the first opportunity you've had to see how your piece will look when it is published in a magazine.

Good luck!