Schadenfreude. You’ve heard the term. It’s a German word which means the pleasure we get from seeing the bad luck of others. It translates directly as ‘harm-joy’. It’s the one-word answer you need when someone asks why you need a content editor. And it’s the word you apply to everyone who has published anything and smirks when they see this picture:
The picture has been around the internet a lot. The publisher, Tails pet magazine, has assured us all it’s a fake, and the original cover back in October 2010 had all the commas in all the right places. But they do appreciate the joke while reiterating that Rachael Ray cooks neither her family nor her dog. And it does illustrate a serious point. A couple of commas change praise to a suggestion she’s a cannibal with an upcoming serious problem with parasites, salmonella, and cholera.
We’ve all been there. Not with the dog-eating, but with the grammatical errors. It might be a missing comma, or mis-spelling a word. It may involve getting someone’s name wrong on the front cover. It might be an unfortunately placed sticker which obscures enough of a word to make it read like something else.
You can spell-check a website or magazine a million times, and still find yourself in a bad situation. Like our old art director did a few years back.
What happens when editors don’t see a page?
This art director had designed a custom magazine for a large government client. The print run was hundreds of thousands of copies. They wanted an ‘edgy’ image on the cover, so she went out with her camera to photograph some graffiti.
When designers work on magazine files, they often only use low resolution or ‘screen resolution’ images. Otherwise the files get too large to work with. Everyone had loved the blurry, low-resolution graffiti pictures she had suggested for the cover. Everyone read every coverline a dozen times to make sure they were all spelled correctly. No-one thought to look at a high-resolution version of the photograph.
It was only when the magazine came back from the printer that they noticed the words F**K OFF scrawled across the wall in the centre of the cover photo.
A content editor creates hurdles—and that’s a good thing
The reason these problems happen, usually, is someone missed it because they were getting other stuff done.
That happens all the time. It’s why publishing companies have hierarchies of editors to check pages multiple times. Of course, most content marketers don’t have access to those resources. It is possible to approximate having an editor—to see how, read our article on How to be your own content editor. In a nutshell, what you need to do is create hurdles in your production flow. To stop it in its tracks.
Once you start producing content regularly, you get into a rhythm. That rhythm can be your friend, but can also make it easy to skip over parts of the process. Because you know what will happen next, so if something seems hard, you jump to the next stage.
But you don’t want to. You should budget for an editor, or at least a proofreader, to do a final read of your files before you publish them. What that person is doing is slowing the process down.
If you can’t, choose someone on staff and give them the job, then proofread their changes yourself. If you’re in a large organisation, compliance people and legal are great for this. Nothing makes lawyers happier than spotting a misplaced comma.