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Marketing / Business writing

Foolproof proofreading tips

Once you’ve edited your blog, newsletter or web content so you’re happy with how it reads, you need to proofread it for surface errors such as spelling, grammar and punctuation. Here are some proofreading tips to help you.

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You may have already touched on this in your editing process, but a final check is critical in producing a professional piece of written communication.

Most people devote only a few minutes to proofreading in the hope of catching a glaring error. But only having a quick read after you’ve worked so hard to get the right words means you could very well miss a mistake that makes you cringe later.

How many times have you spotted a typo or a mistake in a magazine? It’s so easily done, but so hard to rectify! The proofreading process for a quality magazine involves up to seven writing experts meticulously making their way through every word of each article – and that’s after it’s been thoroughly edited by at least three people.

To be fair to yourself – and your brand – devote time to the proofread, searching systematically for errors. It takes a little extra time, but it definitely pays off.

Refresh

Take a break before starting. If your eyes are tired or your content is too familiar, you could easily skip over an error.

"How many times have you spotted a typo or a mistake in a magazine? It's so easily done, but so hard to rectify!"

Clear your head or, if you can, give it to someone else to read. Choose someone with fresh eyes, whose grammatical and spelling skills you trust. (If that’s not an option, refresh your own grammatical know-how with these handy articles on the correct use of commas and apostrophes).

Want more articles like this? Check out the business writing section.

Where?

Which medium allows you to proofread most carefully? You may like to work on the computer or you might prefer to sit back in the beanbag with a printed copy that you can mark up with a pen as you read.

Either way, do your proofreading at a time and place that allows you to concentrate and avoid distractions.

Using spell check

The spell check function in Microsoft Word can be useful, but it won’t catch a misspelling that forms another valid word. Examples that are often missed include ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’, ‘to’ instead of ‘too’, and ‘complementary’ instead of ‘complimentary’.

The grammar check function can present similar issues, so make sure you question and evaluate the feedback it provides.

Be systematic

Like so many other facets of your business, it can be helpful to develop a system that you follow every time you proofread.

For instance, since it’s easier to catch grammatical errors if you’re not checking punctuation and spelling at the same time, you might decide to proofread for each of these types of errors individually.

Read slowly, and read every word. You could read aloud so you can hear how the words sound together.

You could circle every punctuation mark to ensure you look at and question each one.

The proofreading process becomes more efficient as you develop and practice. With time, you’ll start to become familiar with specific areas of your writing that need more attention.

Knowing you have a sound method for finding errors will also help you focus more on developing your ideas while you draft the piece of communication.

Only a fool fails to proofread before publishing. Have you spotted any foolish errors lately or do you have any proofreading tips to share?

Caroline McDevitt

works with businesses to make their voice heard through superior written communication, and her new Writewords Writewell courses give you the skills to write with confidence.

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