To err is human. However, leaving typos, poor grammar, inconsistent information and glaring mistakes in your text is more than embarrassing. It erodes credibility. Try these four tips to improve your proofreading:
Use tools to your advantage
Pay attention to what your spell-checker is telling you. Don’t rely on spell-check to catch everything, but it is a handy tool to catch redundant words and obvious typos. If your spell-checker is telling you that a product name or industry lingo is spelt incorrectly, add the correct spelling to your dictionary.
Most of us have become unabashed skimmers. Even while proofreading we tend to read quickly, which makes it easy to miss “small words” such as “to,” “the,” “a,” “he,” “she” and “they.” Our brains fill them in for us. We also don’t always look at the ends of words, assuming the presence of suffixes such as “s,” “ing,” “ent,” “ion” and “ly.” That’s why reading backwards is a useful proofreading tactic. It forces you to slow down and examine each word. Reading backward — reading the final paragraph, then the penultimate one, and so on — takes practice (and patience), but you’ll be surprised by how many errors you’ll detect.
Review one aspect at a time
Your content is more than words. It also features formatting (spacing between words and lines, font and bullet-point consistency, margins and tabs, white space around images, headers and footers, etc.), numbers and dates (confirming accuracy and cross-references), charts, graphs and images (validating labels, titles, footnotes, etc.), names and titles (ensuring accuracy, spelling and capitalization are correct), web addresses and hyperlinks and logos and trademarks. Don’t try to edit everything at once. Review one aspect of your content at a time.
Read it — thoroughly
As you scour the copy, look for details such as copy and paste accidents, ensuring references to specific sections or pages are accurate and making sure people are correctly identified in photos. Keep in mind that proofreading is different from editing.
A closing thought
Readers will probably understand what you’re conveying if there are typos or words are missing, but effective communication should be flawless. Errors are more than distracting; they can diminish your credibility and authority.