Proofreading is scary. I mean, you didn’t intentionally send that newsletter, important email, article, response etc with aGREAT BIG BLOPPER in it, did you? But when we’re in a rush or have been staring at the same text for days or for the tenth time some mistakes just don’t register.
Here are some top tips that could help minimize those cringe-worthy occasions.
1. Get someone else. Someone else reliable. Someone who will take the time to carefully read every word, query every punctuation mark and check for consistency. And ideally someone who has never seen the copy before!
2. Leave some space and time. A few hours after you finish writing. Even better would be overnight and ideally a few days. Time is a great healer. Come to the copy fresh.
3. Print the text out. Everyone suffers from screen blindness.
4. Print the text out, take a ruler and sit somewhere different.
5. Proofread backwards. One word at a time.
6. Depending on the length of your copy, you could also print it out double or triple spaced and in a really large font.
7. Pay attention to the spellchecker, the grammar police etc. All those coloured wavy lines that regularly show up when you’re composing something brilliant. Sometimes you disagree with them. And that’s ok. Sometimes they save both embarrassment and reputations.
8. Develop antennae for consistency. Especially for capital letters and words whose spelling is evolving. The best example of that is email, e-mail, Email, E-mail, eMail. Following close behind are online, on-line and web site, website and Website. Even WebSite. Decide how you are going to spell these words and use the same spelling. Consistently. Every time. I regularly advise clients to go for the simple option – email, online, website. Fewer key strokes, less mess, less stress. Be careful how you apply that rule though. Some words still need their hyphen or capital letter!
9. When you are not sure about the spelling, check it. Look it up in a dictionary. You may find it handy to keep a personal list of words you are not sure of.
And for those of you who say – well I always use the spellchecker, grammar tool etc – there are things that technology doesn’t always see. Like the missing word or their/there/they’re, led/lead, lose/loose.
You will soon find out which tips or combination of tips works best for you. Keep yourself credible and professional.
Gail Bull is Director of My Mothers Coat, working with businesses to find the communication solutions that work for them.