Specialists in print and digital publications for . . .

Our services

We provide a comprehensive range of services for print and digital media (websites, eBooks, eMags, flipbooks, CDs and DVDs):

  • Design
  • Layout
  • Typesetting
  • eBooks (ePub and Kindle)
  • Technical illustration
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Website development
  • Prepress
  • Print management
  • Multimedia management

The Seven Deadly Sins

Ask ten proofreaders or editors their seven pet hates, and no doubt you’ll end up with seventy rather than seven examples. In fact, we had quite an argument here at Sunset as we tried to narrow the list down to just seven! Here’s what we ended up with:

1. Lead/led

2. Everyday/Every day

3. It’s/Its

4. Alright/All right

5. Stationery/Stationary

6. Foreword/Forward

7. Separate/Seperate

Things they don’t teach at design college

Author: The Sunset Team

All able workmen must know how to use their tools; and words, sentences and paragraphs are the tools that the printer must learn how to use properly before he can lay claim to real ability.

I.T.U. Lessons in Printing: English for Printers – Unit V
(Indianapolis, IN, USA, International Typographical Union, 1957)

These is good

In our quest to lift the professionalism and quality of the print and eBook publishing industries, we are particularly keen to offer advice to up-and-coming designers and finished artists; however, feedback suggests that the information we provide is being digested by a much wider audience. We are delighted that this is the case and hope that our efforts will produce a broader understanding of the problems we are seeking to address.


Collectively (and, in a few cases, individually!), we at Sunset Publishing Services have a great many work-years under our belts. Some of us learned our craft through formal training and others learned it on the job, but all of us agree that the training we received was of the highest quality and that it has served us well down the years. We learned many things – the principles of layout and design, and how to use the relevant technology of the time – but if there was one point that was drummed into us, it was this: at the centre of everything we studied and took into practice was the printed word. These days, of course, words may not be printed at all in the traditional sense: today’s eBooks and other electronic documents may end up being printed by the end-user or, in some cases, read straight from the screen of a computer or a mobile device. While these developments have necessitated a few changes in emphasis, what they have not altered is the fact that we are in the business of communicating information and ideas via the medium of words and, by extension, phrases, sentences and paragraphs.

All the above seems elementary to us, so we can’t help being puzzled, and even dismayed, by the very different approach taken at today’s design colleges. We have searched in vain through the module listings of degree and diploma courses in graphic design (advanced or otherwise), of certificate and diploma courses in printing and graphic arts, and of assorted multimedia courses, all in an effort to find one that gives even a passing nod to the English language. So far, our efforts have been in vain.

At this point we have to be blunt, so please bear in mind that what we are about to say is not meant to give offense. It is the result of many frustrating years spent interviewing job applicants and, in some cases, having to terminate their employment at the end of a trial period – something nobody likes to do. The unpleasant truth is that here at Sunset Publishing Services we have found that graduates of modern design colleges rarely have the necessary skills to meet our minimum standards. We hasten to add that this is not the fault of the job applicants themselves; it is simply that the educational institutions they have attended have forgotten (or more likely were never aware of) the advice from the International Typographical Union that opens this article. We hold that the I.T.U.’s words are just as relevant today as they were in the 1950s.

Form vs content

The problem as we see it is that modern courses tend to regard the content of publications (words, images and illustrations) as mere design elements; or, to put it another way, the form of the publication dominates its content. In so far as the content has any perceived importance at all, it is to give the designer an understanding of the approach he or she should take to the design itself. Whether the content contains mistakes is of secondary importance – if, indeed, it has any importance at all.

We take the view that this approach is dead wrong. We believe that the most important features of any publication are the quality and accuracy of its content. That is not to say that the design is not important: the designer must ensure that the packaging of the content – the design – is such that the message is enhanced, that it is accessible, and that it will have sufficient appeal to ensure success with the particular target audience. Nevertheless, no matter how brilliant the design may be, if the content contains spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, the clarity of the message and validity of the content will be compromised, and the designer will have failed in his or her basic task.

A ‘finishing’ course?

It would be nice to have the time to prepare and conduct a ‘finishing’ course for graphic designers and finished artists, and to do it free of charge, but unfortunately we are not in a position to do that. We will continue to provide free articles as a service to the industry, and these will be added regularly to our website. At the same time, we are working on a more ambitious project: a series of eBooks aimed at filling the gaps left by the current education system, and which we hope to make available at a modest price. In the meantime, we’ll list a few of the things we believe you should know if you work in the industry:

  • You should have at least a basic understanding of the parts of speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition and conjunction), and you should know how to parse a sentence. You should understand tenses (past, present and future) and number (singular and plural). You should be able to recognise that a sentence is grammatically wrong or suspect, and you should feel confident enough to raise this with the author or editor.
  • You should be able to spell. If your spelling is poor, you should make every possible effort to improve it. You should be able to recognise incorrect spelling in hard copy or files you receive and, again, you should feel confident in your ability to query suspect spelling with the author or editor.
  • You should learn to decipher proofreaders’ marks. The best way to do that is to learn how to proofread!
  • You should learn when to italicise words, when to capitalise them, and when to use small capitals.
  • You should be thoroughly conversant with punctuation: full points (periods or full stops), commas, colons, semicolons, ellipses, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, apostrophes, dashes (ems and ens), parentheses, square brackets, braces, slashes (strokes), and so on – yes, there are others! You should be able to pick up inconsistencies and errors in punctuation and, yet again, feel confident enough to query these with the author or editor.
  • You should be familiar with accepted abbreviations, acronyms and contractions, and be able to query these when necessary.
  • You should know where it is appropriate to break (hyphenate) words in justified text, and you should understand the conventions and rules governing hyphenation in compound words, after prefixes and before suffixes.
  • It is important also that you understand fully the capabilities of the software you are using. All page layout and illustration software is capable of extraordinary accuracy: x and y co-ordinates can be set to a tiny fraction of a millimetre, so there is no excuse for one object being 40.06 mm from the left-hand margin and another 40.24 mm! You should also be aware of the power of style sheets and master pages in long documents, and learn how to use these features if you don’t know already.

Please feel free to contact us if you would like to be added to our mailing list, particularly if you are currently working in the industry and agree with us that change is needed. Of course, we also welcome correspondence from those who don’t agree at all, and will be happy to publish and debate your views.

RESOURCES FOR GRAPHIC DESIGNERS    Contents  [1]  [2]  [3]  [4]  [5]