I screwed up.

A one-time, I-need-this-done-today client became a repeat client, and then I screwed up. He sent me a brochure which, apparently, he’d already been using and said, “Edit this.”

First, I loathe editing PDF documents. I can do it. I just dislike doing it. I much prefer editing in MS Word or Google Docs. So, I asked if he had the content in some format other than PDF. He said he had an earlier version of the document in MS Word and sent me the file–oh, and would I make sure the edited file contained the necessary information included in the currently used PDF?

Sure. I can do that.

So, I edited the Word document. I compared its content to the PDF, which isn’t as easy a task as one might think. Doing that is persnickety, tedious, and time-consuming. I delivered the edited document and said, “Review the edits to accept or reject them.”

He wanted the document returned with all edits already executed. I don’t do that and cannot fathom why he would. The edits showing with “track changes” enabled shows exactly what was changed. Not only that, but I never accept edits wholesale to my own documents and certainly don’t expect clients to do so. Sometimes, an editor’s changes don’t match my style or desired phrasing. Sometimes, I simply disagree with the edits. Sometimes, the editor doesn’t have the correct information.

I figure if the document’s author accepts 80% or more of my edits, then I’ve done a pretty darned good job.

However, in that client’s document, the edits I made had mistakes. I neglected to make a noun plural. I missed verb-noun agreement in a rewritten sentence. The client pointed out three simple errors that he caught and which resulted in his spending his time proofreading. Unfortunately, when a document bleeds red from all the edits, it can be difficult to catch those errors among the markups. I’m only human and will never achieve to perfection. I aspire to excellence.

In short, the client expected a perfect document that could be imported by his graphic designer into the brochure. I didn’t deliver on that expectation.

“If there is a next time,” I told him, “then review the edits to accept or reject them and return the document to me for a second pass so I can catch what I missed the first time around.”

Not my best moment.