Back when I edited a custom magazine, I assigned and edited a package about an upcoming event (similar to a business conference) which included profiles of some of the attendees and speakers, a how-to-get ready checklist, a travel piece on side trips to take at the location, a celebration of highlights of the event over the past twenty years, and detailed instructions on how to register for the event.
I was so proud of that issue! After it went to print and was mailed out, my boss took me aside and said, “I just read the issue. You don’t have the event date listed anywhere in it.”
That’s right, I made sure readers knew all there was to know about the event except when it was actually going to be held.
None of the writers included the dates of the event or noticed they were missing. The copy editor didn’t notice. The proofreader didn’t notice. The production editor didn’t notice. Our liaison with the organization (who approved the copy) didn’t notice. And I, the person who signed off on everything and absolutely should have noticed, didn’t notice.
I didn’t get fired, although it wouldn’t have surprised me very much if I had been (thanks, Frank), and I went on to develop a checklist for not making stupid mistakes like that again (I still use checklists on projects because the pain is real).
The point of this post isn’t to say that you can avoid mistakes by having checklists, although checklists can help, the point is that editors make mistakes. Even big, obvious, how-in-hell-did-you-miss-that-mistake mistakes, to which the only possible answer is an embarrassed shrug and a “We’re all human” disclaimer.
Editors make mistakes. And like anyone else who makes a mistake, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, learn what they can, and move on.
So don’t let fear of making mistakes hold you back. Rest assured, one day you’ll have your own editorial blooper reel, and I promise if you hang in there, some day it will actually make you laugh.