Monday, 5 July 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!


  1. Can I add one? Check what the editor may have added. I didn't do this on one of my articles and the name of the person the piece was about was spelled wrongly. I had used the right spelling.

  2. This is the best post I have read all year. I have worked as an editor in publishing for over 10 years and, even when it was not the way of the publisher, I sent re-written articles and/or pdf proofs to authors before print to sign-off. I am lucky to have worked with professional authors who understood the production process and who conscientiously checked their proofs, with little prompting, for changes in content that altered fact or meaning. However, I now work for a publication department within a non-publisher organisation and find myself constantly justifying the editing process and repeating the same information again and again: why an article was re-written, why the author must fact check the proof, why the article they wrote for journal or press release is not suitable for publication in a magazine without some 'tweaking'... How to get the message across? After all, an editor's job is to know the publication and the reader, and to make the author's article fit inside the pages and engage with the audience. The author still gets the credit at the end of the day and the editor is happy about a job well done. Advice please, how to explain that all work must be edited, and sometimes re-written, before publication and that it is not meant as a slight on the author or their writing?

  3. I have just read a great posting on the Stroppy Author's Guide to Publishing about copy-editing - the role of the editor, and the author. Would recommend everyone read it: