6 Tips for Effective Proofreading

April 1st 2014       Sally Ormond       editing, finding errors, how to proofread, proofreading

 

Proofreading

Before I begin let me point out that nobody is perfect.

If you are the type of person who revels in making others feel small because they made a mistake, I’d just like to point out all the blunders you’ve made in your life.

As a copywriter, I am well and truly in the firing line when it comes to my blogs.

Yes, I am human and yes, every now and then a typo will slip through. But is it the end of the world?

No.

Why do they slip through sometimes?

Simply because I am a working copywriter who has stacks of client work to get through and doesn’t always have time to go through blogs with a fine tooth comb.

Is that an excuse for errors?

No, but it’s why they happen.

But client work is a different matter entirely. That must always be error free. Can you imagine how mortifying it would be to have published your web copy, or worse still, sent your brochure off to print, only to find a glaring typo?

How can you minimise the chances of an error slipping through?

Well, the following 6 tips are techniques I use when proofing client work.

1. Wait

When you’re working on a project, it’s a great feeling when you finally get to the end of the first draft.

The overwhelming urge is to have a quick read through, save it and send it over to your client so you can get on with the next project.

Don’t.

Leave it for at least 24 hours before checking it. In the meantime get on with something else, so when you come back to the finished project you will be looking at it with fresh eyes, making it easier to spot small errors.

2. Print

OK, not the most environmentally friendly thing to ask you to do, but proofreading from a piece of paper is an awful lot easier than from a screen.

As you read through, mark any errors in red. Then read through it again to make sure you haven’t missed anything. It’s also a good idea to read your copy backwards. Start from the last word on the last page and work your way through to the first word on the first page. Although it won’t make much sense, it will make you concentrate on each word, helping you spot typos that you might otherwise miss.

Once you’re happy that you’ve spotted everything, use your marked up document to correct your Word document.

3. Quiet

There are a lot of distractions in your office – phones, Twitter, social media, email, not to mention other people.

To proofread effectively you’ll need silence. If possible, find a quiet corner somewhere where you won’t be disturbed and read through your printed document slowly marking the errors as you go. It’s also a good idea to mark each line with an amendment with a cross to make sure you don’t miss any.

4. Loud

Do you ever read your work out loud?

If you do, you’ll get a much better feel for the flow of your work. It will also help you spot any punctuation errors and typos and it will highlight any words that have been repeated too often.

I’ve often written about the power of the conversational writing style, this technique will also help you hone that skill.

5. Details

If you get hung up on finding every typo or grammatical error you could miss other details. Don’t take anything for granted and check how brand names should be written, if you’re using stats make sure they are right and referenced correctly. If you mention names, make sure they are spelt correctly. If using web links make sure they work.

6. Last chance

Even if you’ve gone through each of these steps and have made the corrections to your document, give it one more read through and when you’re 100% happy it’s error free, publish it or send it to your client.

None of this is new and most of it is common sense, but having said that I’m constantly coming across blaring errors that would have been picked up if only the writer had followed these simple steps.

Is there anything you do differently? If so, leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Tags: editing, finding errors, how to proofread, proofreading
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Comments (1)


Caroline Lakey 4 years ago.

Hi Sally, I'm a translator rather than a copywriter, but I proofread my work in exactly the same way as you. One other thing I do is open the document I'm sending to the client when I attach it to the email (to make sure it's the right one - yes, been there!) and give it one final read through. Just occasionally, I'll catch a typo that slipped through the net. Have a good day! Caroline