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I was going over some written text provided by the client this morning and I found some pretty blatant grammar mistakes. Usually I will write down these mistakes in a designer note section when I provide the proofs.

Question

When a client sends over the text to be used in a graphic design job, is it the designer's job to point out spelling and grammatical errors (assuming there is no copywriter on their team).

Thoughts

  • Is a graphic designer expected to always do a "spell check"?

  • For technical design assignments (e.g. healthcare), should a graphic designer be expected to look up/suggest corrections for organizations and/or industry terms?

  • Is it common for a freelance designer or agencies to include such clauses in their contract for grammar and spelling mistakes?

  • If there is a spelling mistake, how have you informed your client of a potential spelling mistake (is this too broad)?

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Short answer—No, it isn't your job.

Is a Graphic Designer expected to always do a "check spelling"?

If the client needs copywriting or editing, by all means specifically charge for the service. Otherwise it is down to the client. In the past I have corrected spelling mistakes only to be told later that it was intentionally misspelled—I then had to front the cost of corrections. Since then I won't change anything unless I am explicitly asked to do so. I will send a nice friendly email letting the client know that there are mistakes if they are obvious, but nothing more than that without an explicit request.

For technical design assignments (Ex: Healthcare), Should a graphic designer be expected to look up/suggest corrections for organizations and/or industry terms?

For anything outside your area of expertise, the answer is a definite no. Even if the client specifically requests it, you should say no. It would take you longer and cost more for you to research industry specific terminology etc. than it would to hire a copywriter knowledgable in the subject (reading a Wikipedia page isn't good enough).

All of this should be clearly stated in any contracts and I of course make this perfectly clear up front. Everyone needs to enter any project with the correct expectations.

  • 5
    +1 for the misspelled first word in an answer telling us to ignore misspellings! – Andy May 4 '16 at 19:36
  • Wow. how did I miss that! – Cai May 4 '16 at 20:07
7

Is a Graphic Designer expected to always do a "check spelling"?

No, it should not be a client expectation. Sometimes clients don't understand where the line between graphic design and copy writing is and they might assume that it is the designer's responsibility but I am always very explicit that copy editing and graphic design are two separate services.

For technical design assignments (Ex: Healthcare), Should a graphic designer be expected to look up/suggest corrections for organizations and/or industry terms?

No. I have worked in healthcare and finance for many years and we always proofed our design work with the client (together in the same room or on skype or goto meeting) before sending to print or publishing on-line. If your client is in an industry that has a specialized language, this is an absolutely necessary step in your workflow.

Also, I have worked with clients in many different countries laying things out in languages that I don't speak. Again, we always sit together and review the work with translators and other language experts before publishing. The big issue in working with other languages that I've encountered has to do with where the lines break, sometimes creating a poor reading rhythm.

Is it common for a freelance designer or agencies to include such clauses in their contract for grammar and spelling mistakes.

I think if they (freelance designers and agencies) are experienced, they will have clauses in their contracts that relieve them of the copy writing / editing responsibility.

If there is a spelling mistake, how have you informed your client of a potential spelling mistake (Is this too broad)?

I always run whatever copy is provided through a spell checker before putting into a layout. If I find mistakes, I will let the client know BEFORE doing any design work and ask for corrected copy or confirmation of the misspelling.

6

This depends. Mostly upon the agreements / contract you agree upon with your client. In principle, I'd say this falls outside of a designer's responsibility.

For example, I have a set of terms and conditions that apply to all my contracts, and they include the clause that I'm not responsible for spelling mistakes, provided I placed the text as I received it from the client. I keep mail archives to back me up if necessary.

In a good working relationship, I'd say it's a good idea to suggest making corrections, but be specific about the ones you are making. And always do them after checking with the client. Consider the situation that your language skills are inferior to the client's, or that they make the errors on purpose, like some kind of slang for example.

Some of the activities you suggest (esp. 'suggest corrections and alternatives for industry terms') are more in the domain of a copywriter, not a designer.

You're working with images, not language. They hire you to be a designer, not a schoolmarm.

  • What is a 'schoolmarm'? – PieBie May 4 '16 at 20:21
5

It all depends on how you sell yourself as a service, and the expectations you set with the client up-front. My design agency markets itself as a full-service agency, where we review all the copy that comes in, modifying it for clarity and style consistency.

As a freelancer, I rarely review the copy I receive (not never). I make sure that the clients know that if they are providing the copy, I am assuming that it is pre-reviewed and approved. If I believe that there is a spelling mistake, I'll just make the changes, and let the client know I've made those changes as I submit that round. They may tell you thanks or they may tell you to change it back, but if they do, it means it's probably an industry-specific term (or you suck at spelling & grammar.)

0

I know you've already accepted an answer but I would go for something like this before starting the work:

Dear Mr/Mrs. Client,

I am in the process starting work on Project XYZ and upon looking at the text copy which I've been provided I have taken notice that some of the words are spelled differently than what I am accustomed to seeing.

If you could, please verify that the text copy is exactly as you wish for it to look in the final product.

Thank you kindly,

MonkeyZeus

  • It seems to me that this type of prompt to a client adds in an additional feedback phase to the project without the client seeing any deliverables. If the answer is "yes, that's what I wanted." then the client just gets frustrated by your seeming incompetence. "Why doesn't the designer just do what I ask? It's that simple." – Peacockerie May 4 '16 at 15:03
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    Strongly disagree with @Peacockerie's comments - copyediting is all too often a tragedy of the commons, I'd be happy to see anybody providing some even if I ultimately disagreed with the results. – Kyle Hale May 4 '16 at 20:29
  • @Kyle Hale in an agency setting, would you put a project on hold to wait on the response of a client that might not have the time to look over your edits? Unless you are a copywriter or have a copywriter on your team, are you even qualified to tell a client how to present their copy? For minor tweaks & edits, submit them with a design round along with notes explaining your changes. – Peacockerie May 4 '16 at 20:35
  • @Peacockerie Fair point, but again, better to be proactive than simply wait for the design round, sending an email asking if the copy was edited and approved, and to point out the edits I intended to make, is a good practice, better to have one too many touchpoints with the client than one too few. – Kyle Hale May 4 '16 at 21:16
0

I make an effort to correct any mistakes that I spot. However, I am far from being a master of English.

I make these changes because in the end, it is my work. I will possibly go on to present this and if it takes just 10 minutes of my time to correct it, then it is well worth the effort.

Always run a spell check. The client could be looking for any excuse to not pay you the full amount. For looking up technical terms for a specific field, this is not your area of expertise and you should not be expected to understand their usage. If you feel that a more effective word can be used, run it past the client.

You should always read through the copy you receive. For me, it helps work out layouts and and dividing up content. If you want to charge for that, it is entirely up to you, but the onus on supplying content should always be on the client or the copywriter. You should always point out mistakes, especially when dealing with print.

  • 2
    Hi Morgan. "The client could be looking for any excuse to not pay you the full amount." That is why it should be clear from start that spell checking is NOT the designers job and the final art should be aproved by the client. – Rafael May 3 '16 at 18:36
  • So what happens if you make a change to something intended by the client? How do you handle that? – DᴀʀᴛʜVᴀᴅᴇʀ May 3 '16 at 18:55
  • 1
    Obviously I didn't make myself clear on this. Everything is run past the client first. That should pretty much go without saying. – Bagseye May 3 '16 at 18:57

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