Skip to content

Don’t Skip This Crucial Step in Direct Mail Production

Ah, the start of a new campaign! You gather your account team and strategize your message while your data folks mine and segment your donors to choose the best recipients for a robust response. Your creatives burn the midnight oil and produce a compelling, persuasive letter and insert, full of intimate and emotional photos and graphics to drive the point home. Lots of moving parts.

Everyone pores over the myriad versions of copy from manuscript through layout and final art, rereading, editing, removing this and adding that, suggesting fixes here and there. Another proof, another detailed read. Finally, the team signs off on the bluelines and it goes straight to press. And now you are holding the completed and mailed package, which is already signed, sealed, and delivered. You’re super proud of this one and all the hard work it entailed.

A little giddy, you open the envelope just as you’re imagining all the recipients doing, and you begin to read the thoughtful, carefully composed letter, hoping it tugs at the heartstrings of your donors as they reach for their checkbooks. But wait, is that a … a … typo?

How could that possibly be? No one saw this error in the 14 rounds of copy changes on a dozen versions? (And why does it now jump off the page at you, after hiding in plain sight through all the rounds of internal proofing? Ugh.) Of course, everyone saw it – but no one noticed it.

In the frenzied, fast-paced world of fundraising and direct mail campaigns, it’s easy to overlook an essential step in the production process: proofreading. The minimal time and cost spent on proofreading pales in comparison to the invaluable peace of mind you'll get, not to mention the clean and error-free final product your donors will receive.

Running your copy in front of the fresh eyes of an independent, professional proofreader is a must. If possible, have the manuscript proofed after the first round of copy is approved, so that any mistakes can be caught early and won't be included through all the design versions and revisions. And definitely have final art proofed before going to press.

Here’s another benefit to consider: The independent proofreader has not been in the dozens of meetings where the message and copy for this campaign have been debated, edited, rearranged, and placed in a design that has gone through its own series of changes. Your proofer has no personal investment in the content, which allows them to review it objectively. They are not looking to evaluate or rewrite the copy; their charter is only to find errors in the copy.

At Bulletproof, we’re often summoned after an embarrassing typo has been sent out on a final piece. The feedback we hear regularly is, “I wish we’d started using you sooner!” Save yourself from the cringe and disappointment of typos. Whether you use a freelance proofreader, a dedicated staff proofreader (who hasn’t seen the copy 14 times already), or an outside professional proofing service such as Bulletproof, get that copy proofed before you sign off. You’ll love the peace of mind.

Susan Mulligan Fleischman is the director of client services for Bulletproof ( She joined the company in 1999, back when faxes were commonplace. The evolution to electronic proofing has been a fascinating and gratifying journey. Susan and her team are thankful to save all that paper, but they do miss their red pens.