Six Proofreading Tips Straight From the Pros
It’s happened to all of us…we notice a grammar error just as we hit send on an email. Or we see that our bullets are not aligned as we are stapling our 50th document. It’s not that we don’t know the rules; it’s that we didn’t do an effective job of proofreading our (or someone else’s) work. When your reputation is on the line, proofreading is essential. Here are some tips professional proofers use.
Tip 1: Enlist help.
You have the best chance of catching all errors if you enlist the help of others in the proofreading process. Make sure you trust the person you ask, and when in doubt, consult a reference guide. Our favorite for business is the Gregg Reference Manual; it’s comprehensive and respected. While “Googling it” might be faster, there is a lot of bad information online.
Tip 2: Separate yourself with time and space.
Give yourself as much time as you can between the time you write and the time you proofread if you’re working with your own material. Also proofread in a physical space that’s different from where you wrote in the first place. Simply changing your environment will help you catch more errors.
Tip 3: Divide your tasks.
Don’t try to proofread for all errors at the same time. Take focused passes through the document. Maybe the first time, you check for punctuation. In the second pass, you look for spelling errors, and so on. An active search for a specific error increases your chance of catching it!
Tip 4: Use your senses.
Get as many of your senses involved as possible. Read the document out loud so you can hear it as well as see it. Use your finger as a guide through the document. Seek out those sneaky errors.
Tip 5: Double-check the details.
Especially if you’re writing technical material, check and double-check the details. Check the numbers, as well as the words. Refigure all calculations and look for misplaced commas and decimal points.
Tip 6: Read backwards.
That’s right; start at the end of the document and read it backwards a sentence at a time. You’ll be surprised at what you find when you can’t read what you think you wrote. This is also an excellent way to catch inadvertent double wording.
Proofreading takes time and focus and nobody notices if it’s done well. However, people have lots of opinions when it is not. Good luck!