As an editor, QCing documents for clients or your employer is just part of the job. But do you ever think about QCing items in your day-to-day life? Things like forms, applications, invitations, emails, social media posts? You really should.
A QC is a last look at a laid-out document before it is finalized. The purpose is to ensure there are no formatting errors by checking things like indents and justifies, word breaks, table and figure callouts, bold and italics, headers and footers, and page numbering. But QCs are also a last look for other major errors, such as wrong page numbers in a table of contents, typos, and URLs that link to the wrong place or don’t open. I also like to throw in steps like making sure dates, addresses, phone numbers, and spellings of people’s names are correct. For some clients or documents this is not possible. As an editor, you’re not expected to fact-check such things. However, if it’s a known client address and phone number, or a name that comes up often for a certain client (say, a board member or president), it’s good to double-check. Also, if any name or information appears more than once in a document, it should be checked for consistency.
Of course, not all these steps apply to daily life. Most of us do not deal with things like references, figures, and running page heads in our correspondence. But things like dates, addresses, phone numbers, and spelling? Definitely—even for personal information, which we tend to assume we so instinctively know that we often don’t bother to double-check. But such information is also easy to make mistakes in, and hard to catch because our brains are used to just skimming over it.
For example, my aunt was once almost not let on a flight because she failed to double-check her information before she booked it: Instead of writing her first and last name, she wrote her last name twice: “Mallinoff Mallinoff.” She was eventually able to convince the airline workers that Mallinoff Mallinoff was not an actual person, and it was a simple mistake. But this was in the days before 9/11. If that had happened today, she probably would have been stuck.
Several years ago, when I first started working for an old employer, my health insurance didn’t kick in when it should have. I called the insurance company, and almost immediately after starting to review my information, the representative said, “Oh, I see the problem: You’re not an infant.” It turns out HR had put my birth date as February 12, 2010 (the then-current year), rather than 1985. I was making the call in May, so that would have meant I was three months old.
Very recently, a disaster of epic proportions was averted thanks to my QC skills. My sister, cousin, and I are hosting a bridal shower. While the majority of guests were sent evites, we sent paper invitations to those—like our grandma—who don’t use email. We got the paper invitations from an Etsy vendor, who prints your information on the invitations before mailing them to you. The vendor sent my cousin, who was ordering the invitations, a proof to review before the purchase was finalized. She emailed the proof to my sister and me for a second and third set of eyes to read it. Before I had a chance to look it over, my sister emailed back, “Everything looks great!” Good thing my cousin didn’t take her word for it. When I looked at it, I realized my sister’s phone number, which was the ONLY contact information listed for the RSVP, was wrong.
I’ll admit, I’d been the one who emailed my cousin all the information to put on the invitation. As all of us do, I only half-heartedly skimmed over it before emailing it, because I figured there’s no way I could have gotten any of the information wrong. It was only in that last pass—when I consciously got myself into QC mode—that I realized I’d typed in my own sister’s phone number wrong. Since then, I make sure to get my QC on before I send or fill anything out.
Written by Mary Bruzzese, Editorial Project Manager at Vector TalentMEDIA. For more information about how TalentMEDIA’s editorial team can help you, contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.