tips & resources

Even the best workflows can use a little tweaking. Help yourself to our handy tips and resources.


How to use a dash

What’s up with em ‘n’ en? Hyphens, em dashes, en dashes—who ever knew there were so many to choose from. Here’s how to make the right choice.

Hyphens [ - ] are the smallest member of the dash family. They’re strictly for hyphenating words or numbers, and you’ll find them in phone numbers or in adjectives (such as “red-hot” or “tailor-made”) as well as compounds starting with “long” (e.g., “long-winded”) or “self” (e.g., “self-conscious”).

An en dash [ – ] is approximately the width of an uppercase N in that particular font. Use it between words to indicate duration, a range, or where you might otherwise use “to”. You can leave a little space on either side of an en dash, but not a full character space. In many publications, it has replaced the em dash.

An em dash [ — ] is approximately the width of an uppercase M. The em dash is often used where a period is too strong and a comma is too weak. Used in a similar manner as a colon or parenthesis, it can indicate an aside or abrupt change in thought. The em dash should be used without any spaces on either side.


Revisiting the revision process

Although it’s next to impossible to eliminate revisions entirely, there are measures you can take to streamline the process. Here are a few tips to improve your workflow, save your budget, and get your content fit to print.

The word file.

Many of the extra fees incurred during the design phase are for revisions that could have been made to the original word file. Proofread and edit your text thoroughly before it goes to layout. Spell check beware. This is a great tool, but use it with caution: correct spelling does not guarantee proper usage.

Style consistency. Styles are more about consistency than one-size-fits-all rules. Determine the styles and make sure they are handled in the same manner throughout the document (e.g., all bullet points start with a capital versus lower case; all sizes are in metric, etc.).


Formatting. The less formatting you do, the better. Much of what is formatted in a word document gets undone during the layout. Of course, if a word should be italicized or bolded, go ahead—but leave items such as spacing, tabs, column widths, etc., to the designer. These are all easily created in a page layout program using clean, unformatted text.


Say no to caps lock. Every designer’s pet peeve! Typing with the caps lock feature presents a major problem at the design stage. The only way to remove the capital letters is to retype the text, resulting in potential typos, more design time, and often more fees. A designer can toggle between upper and lowercase letters with the push of a button—but only if the letters are lowercase from the start.

Reviewing the layout

Seeing your words come together in their intended form is exciting. In addition to your standard proofing procedures, here are a few additional tips to ensure a smooth revision process with limited rounds. Confirm, confirm, confirm. Verify names, contact information, and important dates. Call all the contact numbers yourself to make sure your readers will be able to reach the correct person or department.


Proof from a hardcopy. It’s easy to miss errors when proofing onscreen, so print out PDFs and proof the hardcopy.


Print revisions clearly. If your revisions are illegible or confusing, consider yourself signed up for Round Two. When marking up on a PDF, use the commenting tools or type your revisions in a note. Publisher’s Note: Even your local CSI team would be hard pressed to decipher writing created with the PDF pen tool.


Submit a hardcopy of all revisions. No matter how few revisions, submit a hardcopy or PDF with all required corrections so the designer has a visual reference to check the changes against.


Major revisions. Paragraph rewrites are best supplied as a new Word file or in a note on the PDF.

Proofreading marks. Standard proofreading marks should be used to communicate common edits. They’re great for eliminating confusion and streamlining the revision process. See the handy proofreading chart just after this article.

Take charge. Appoint one person to liaise with the designer. Make sure everyone involved submits their revisions to the main contact, who can compile and verify them, and then hand them off to the designer in one nice, neat package.


First impressions really do count. Don’t wait for the fifth set of revisions to do a thorough proofreading: put your best foot forward at the onset. The more proofing required, the sloppier the proofreading becomes as everyone begins to lose interest and gloss over text, potentially missing obvious errors and important omissions.


Press proofs. This stage ensures that the physical properties of a piece are correct—that everything is in its place, folds happen where they should, text doesn’t fall off the page, photos and illustrations print clearly, fonts are not jagged, colour is correct, nothing is missing, and so on. While the odd typo does get caught here, don’t rely on this stage to do a paragraph overhaul. Not only is it costly to redo film, plates or expensive proofs, you may lose your press date and have to go back in the queue, thus missing important deadlines.

The bottom line

Proofreading is a team effort, but ultimately the responsibility of approving the final document rests with the client or other assigned person(s). While a designer can eliminate extra spaces and improper line breaks, the assigned proofreader must rely on his or her knowledge of company products, information, and services to eliminate incorrect content. And finally, the more you polish a piece, the more you see that “needs” extra polishing. Rewriting paragraphs and changing the delivery of words can lead to an endless cycle of revisions. With that in mind, it’s important to know when to stop—such as now.


Proofreader marks

Here’s a quick reference guide to some of the most commonly used proofreader’s marks.


What's an extra space or two?

Besides being a pain in the you-know-what, two or more spaces between sentences are not necessary.

Way back when—in the days when we still used typewriters—two spaces were a necessity. Typewritten characters were monospaced, meaning that each character used the exact same width of space. Two spaces after a period were necessary to clearly separate the end of a sentence from the beginning of a new sentence.

Unlike monospaced characters, today’s computer generated fonts are proportional, so that each character uses space relative to its size. As a result—and to reward the labours of typography designers everywhere—only one space is required after a full stop. This is the typographical standard professional designers adhere to.

TIP: Eliminate extra spaces before sending your text files to design. This will save you time and money during the revision process.


Lost in translation

The design and translation process for multi-language documents

If you’re writing content for a multi-language document, it’s good practice to wait until the layout and text are completely approved (or as close as possible) before proceeding to the translation phase. Often, there are more than just design iterations at this stage; suddenly, usage and other issues become more apparent, which can ultimately lead to revised content.

Keep your headlines short. When translating from English to French, for example, there’s an approximate 30% word gain. Keep your headlines to the point. It’s good practice regardless, since headlines are meant to grab your attention, not spill their guts. Other languages will vary, so check with your translator what the gain is, if any.

Leave some white space. When designing for multi-language documents, there needs to be an appropriate amount of white space to balance the gain in the translated language. Keep your documents clean and legible, and resist the urge to fill the space with just one more tidbit.

Proofread… again. After the translated language has been formatted into the layout, proofread thoroughly once again. Important symbols and characters sometimes become garbled or completely disappear when imported from the text file to the page layout. Check the hyphenation, and that breaks happen appropriately. In the case of French, check that dollar signs remain with the associated amount, and that quotations don’t become orphaned.