What is this dry read you keep going on about?

A dry read is when you read a document without having to compare it to anything else.  You are not checking prices against a spreadsheet, you’re not checking that corrections have been made, you’re not comparing against a previous version to make sure that nothing dropped off. You’re just reading the document for typos, grammar, consistency in format, etc.

Why is it so important?

It is impossible to catch every typo and every formatting error if you are also, in that same round of proofreading, comparing against previous versions, checking client edits, and verifying prices and item numbers. And you ARE expected to catch every typo and formatting error, so it’s in your best interest to insist on a dry read.

Where does the dry read fall in the proofreading process?

The proofreading process usually looks something like the chart below. At a minimum, there should be a dry read at the beginning just after the document is created, and at the end just before it goes to print. I prefer to also do a dry read before the document goes out to the client, but there is not often time in the schedule for that to happen.

Proofreading Flowchart

I just looked at that flow chart – are you seriously suggesting doing a dry read after the client signs off on the document?

Yes, I am. It should be the last thing done before the document goes to the printer (sometimes the document is even sent to the printer and the dry read is done on the printer proofs). At that point there have been many rounds of edits and many eyes on the document. So the last dry read should have very minimal changes that are easily communicated to the client.

But if I do a dry read at the beginning, and I check all my changes and all the client’s changes to make sure they have been made, why do I have to do another dry read before it goes to the printer? Shouldn’t everything be right?

Yep, everything should be right. But it rarely is. You’re making an assumption that you’re being given the document back to proofread every time corrections are being made. Even if that is our client’s policy, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. If they’re making a one-word edit, they might think they don’t need to put it back through proofreading, but that one-word edit can be (and sometimes is) made incorrectly. Plus, every time the document is opened (and documents get opened a lot), there is a chance that a stray keystroke could occur, an image could “fall off,” a text box could shrink and info could be left off as a result. So push for that second dry read before it goes to print.

Let’s say I’m given a document and asked to verify that the client’s edits have been made correctly. It’s not my fault if there’s a stray typo because I’m just supposed to check changes, not read the whole thing, right?

Didn’t your momma teach you not to sign anything without reading it? You initial every page you look at, whether you’re doing a dry read or just checking changes, right? So read it. Because two weeks after you’ve checked client edits, someone is going to find a typo, and hopefully that document is not at the printer when that happens. The layouts are going to get pulled, and there your initials will be, right there in the corner. NO ONE is going to remember that you were just checking client edits (probably not even you). They’re just going to think, “Gosh, if  only we had someone whose sole job is to make sure there are no typos. Oh wait! We do have someone like that! It’s the proofreader’s job to make sure there are no typos!” And they’re right – if you’re working on that document, it should be your baby and you should be taking every opportunity to make sure it is perfect. So if you’re checking changes, use that opportunity to do a quick read of the page to at least check for typos.

Why are you so obsessed with typos?

I’m a Virgo.