Surefire Proofreading Tips for Your Business Writing
Here are some ways to do the best job proofing your own business writing, or someone else’s. They’re based on hard-won experience and using them can save you all that trial and error.
- Use a system so your proofreading is systematic and clear.
- Make sure in the case of a major document to keep an original unedited version.
- Try to proofread when your eyes and mind are fresh, and take frequent breaks.
- Proofread more than once — ideally three times — and allow some time between sessions.
- Carefully check sentences before and after every change you make, because editing usually generates new errors.
- Pay special attention to the places where you find an error, because errors often clump together (perhaps you were tired when you wrote that part).
- Look for words that are often misspelled.
Every grammar book has these lists or you can easily find one online; keep a copy on your desk.
- Examine all the “little words,” including on, in, at, the, for, to.
They may repeat or go missing without your noticing if you don’t pay attention.
- Look up all words you aren’t sure about.
Choose a dictionary you like, or just Google the word.
- Triple-check names, titles, numbers, subheads, and headlines.
- Rest your eyes regularly, especially if you’re proofreading on-screen.
Looking out a window into the distance helps. So does setting your computer screen to a comfortable brightness.
- Try enlarging the on-screen type for easier viewing — but not so much that you don’t see the whole sentence, paragraph, or section.
- Read challenging portions of text backwards.
This approach helps a lot with material that is highly technical or contains numbers.
- Resist relying solely on your computer’s or smartphone’s auto-correct feature.
The more aggressive these systems get, the more big mistakes and potential disasters they introduce.
- Recheck all the places where a mistake would prove most embarrassing: headlines, lead sentences, quotes.