A Beginner’s Guide to Proofreading

Image courtesy of Stephen Phampshire's photostream

Image courtesy of Stephen Phampshire’s photostream

As I indicated in a post last year, it’s important to produce copy that fits your brand, your audience and the medium you’re using. However, writing a perfect email, creating a mistake-free catalog or sharing a flawless press release is no easy task. As a person responsible for producing all of the above, I’ve learned that while developing the right messaging is important, so is taking the time to proof it. If as much time is spent reviewing and editing as was spent writing, perfection (or at least, something very close to it) is attainable.

Here are some tips I’ve learned about proofreading that are easy and worth every minute of your time:

1.    It doesn’t hurt to check the facts. Even if you are the one who wrote the original copy, it is always a good idea to double check the information you gathered. Maybe you misspelled a city, or put down the wrong date. If you fact check, you reassure yourself that what you’ve written is correct.

2.    Spell-check everything. The little button in Word to check for spelling errors is there for a reason! While it may not always pick up on your vs. you’re, or there vs. their, it will let you know if you just spelled a city incorrectly, or if you typed too quickly and ‘wrong’ became ‘wrogn.’ With today’s technology, there is really no excuse for major spelling errors, so use what is available!

3.    Print it out. Once you’ve checked the facts and spelling, print out your written piece so it can be thoroughly, and easily, proofread. While it is not environmentally-friendly, a printed piece (in my opinion) makes it easier to catch the mistakes the computer can’t for you.

4.    Take it one line at a time. Proofing is not a race to see who will finish the fastest. Read each line in front of you separately, and then together to make sure the whole paragraph flows well. If you read one large ‘clump’ at a time, the chances increase that you’ll miss something important. Treat each fact and sentence as if it is the most important piece to telling the story.

5.    Read it again. Once you’ve applied your edits, proofread your piece one more time. Typing in changes can be challenging, so you will want to make sure what you planned to edit has been adjusted, and not something else. Plus, it gives you one final chance to make sure your copy is as close to perfection as possible.

Proofreading can be a long and tedious process. But what you give is what you get, and if you give your customer a well-thought out, thoroughly proofed piece, you will hopefully get the positive results you deserve!


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