To err is human. We all make mistakes, even the best writers. Proofreading allows us to take a laser-approach to our writing — word by word, paragraph by paragraph, from start to finish. Ensuring your copy is free of typos, spelling or grammatical errors is not only the foundation of good writing, it sets the stage as a detail-oriented professional who takes pride in their work.
Every time you write a letter or an email, it reflects the way you present yourself and your company’s credibility. This can translate into how much you care about what you’re writing, the intended recipient or ultimately the company’s reputation.
To borrow a quote from Dale Carnegie, “There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.”
The “what we say and how we say it” make proofreading ever so important. Above all, proofreading matters, and like anything, practice makes perfect.
It can be easy to overlook errors in our own writing, because we’re so close to the content. Proofreading is classic evidence that writing looks different to the writer and reader. Our brains tend to think everything we do is correct, so as the writer, we have a difficult time recognizing our errors.
Get into the habit of proofreading everything you write.
It’s worth spending the extra time on your writing to ensure it reflects the best of you.
By putting yourself in the reader's position, you’ll catch errors you might not otherwise see. With a keen eye, you’ll communicate the message in the clearest possible way, without spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, or inconsistency in language.
Read your work as though you have never seen it before, and follow these tried-and-true proofreading principles to proofread like a pro:
Proofread with Copy in Hand
Resist proofreading your copy from the computer screen. Rather, print and read it the old-fashioned way. You’ll be surprised by the errors you’ll find.
Keep a Ruler Handy
Use a ruler to cover the lines below the one you're reading. This trusted technique keeps you from skipping ahead of possible mistakes.
Take Your Time
Avoid rushing through your document. When you hurry, you guess and skim – and you’re likely to miss errors.
Less is More
When writing, less is more. Don’t be afraid to cut content. Concise, clear writing wins all the time.
Read Your Copy Out Loud
By reading your message aloud, you’ll gain a whole new perspective on your writing and style. This technique is especially helpful for recognizing run-on sentences and other awkward areas you might not catch when reading to yourself.
Take a Break
If possible, take a break from your copy – overnight if possible – so you’ll have fresh eyes to review it again.
It’s counter-intuitive, I know. Read your copy backward to focus on the spelling of words. It works!
Don’t Rely on Spell Check
Use it but don’t rely on it. Spell check won’t catch mistakes with homonyms such as "they're," "their” or "there" or certain typos like "he" for "the."
Seek a Second Pair of Eyes
After a thorough review on your own, ask a trusted colleague to proofread your work. Often, he or she will find something you overlooked.
Helpful Online Sites to Perfect Grammar and Content
A great proofreading tool, Hemingway Editor outlines common issues that can clog and muddy your writing. It helps to make your writing bold and clear. Just copy and paste a few paragraphs into the site’s text box, and the editor will share problem areas such as subject-verb agreement, sentence fragments, wrong tense other writing problems.
Grammarly is a useful “writing-enhancement platform” to help strengthen your writing. By copying and pasting your text, Grammarly will highlight spelling, grammar, punctuation and style mistakes, among others, that are in your document. The site reports more than three million people worldwide use Grammarly including top universities and corporations.
Fog Index (also called Gunning Fox Index) is a readability test for writing. The Index, based on a formula calculation, estimates the years of formal education a person needs to understand the text on the first reading. Basically, the Fog Index helps to ensure your writing will be understood by your intended audience.
About the Author:
Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker and author. Highly dedicated and results oriented, she has the skill and passion for helping individuals become more confident and successful in business and beyond. She and her company Polished help clients focus on key adjustments that result in meaningful impact and effectiveness.