Have you ever discovered a missing word, an embarrassing typo or the wrong date only after you hit the send button? We’ve all been there. It can be infuriating when a mistake — no matter how small — somehow makes its way into the final version of a document. It’s especially painful when several people reviewed the work and yet everyone missed it. You and your team can avoid that negative experience by taking the time to proofread well.
Proofreading is an important step in the editing process. It’s more than a final read before you color your work done; it’s the careful review for errors and final polishing of a written piece. Consider these tips to ensure your document gets the attention it needs to be error-free:
It might be surprising, but the best way to start very well could be to step away from the computer or document. If you’re too familiar with it, you’ll likely miss something. Take a break and make sure you can focus solely on proofreading before you begin.
Let the document fill the entire screen, set your phone aside and pause notifications so you can read through from the beginning to end without distractions. If you’re proofreading something on your computer, you can utilize tools such as Microsoft’s focus mode to help declutter your screen.
Actually Start From the Beginning
Do not overlook the title, date, company logo, contact information, etc. Start at the very top to make sure nothing odd has interfered with elements that tend to be copy and pasted from one document to the next.
Or Start from the End
A method some proofreaders use to lessen the level of familiarity with a written piece is to start from the last sentence and read backwards through the piece one sentence at a time. This may help prevent you from unconsciously filling in words that aren’t really there but should be.
Take it Slow
Read slowly and out loud to make sure you’re reading what’s actually there. Don’t let your mind or eyes play tricks on you.
Control (Command) + F
Is there a common mistake you’re looking for? Search for variations of it using the shortcut for the find command.
Phone a Friend
Are you proofreading your own work? It’s really best to have a fresh set of eyes take a look. Ask a colleague to carefully review it as well. Perhaps share these tips with them when you make the request. 🙂
Have a Checklist
Sometimes I find it’s helpful to check through the document a few times for different things, breaking sentences down to focus on grammar, punctuation and spelling.
Some other things to verify before you hit “send” may include:
- Links – Click through them. Are they opening to the correct pages?
- Dates – Are you sure they’re correct? Do you have the correct day of the week listed?
- Times – Double check them. Did you type the correct period for the time: a.m. or p.m.?
- Phone numbers – Dial the number to ensure your digits are in order.
- Names – Are they spelled correctly? A little online searching can usually help with this.
- Homophones – Make sure you used the correct word. Consider utilizing the find command.
- Its, it’s
- Their, they’re, there,
- To, two, too
- Your, you’re
- Complement, compliment
- Style – Are you adhering to brand and style guidelines?
While these things may seem like common sense, small details are often overlooked when we’re moving too quickly. Dedicate the time and a keen level of focus to proofreading, and you’ll be thankful when your work is how you intended it to be: perfect.