Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

Proof To Make It Perfect!

In other words, don’t trust your spellchecker

One of my good friends has noticed that her fingers seem to have a mind of their own. For one thing, she always types ‘sue’ when she wants to type ‘use.’ She says her left hand is faster on the keyboard than her right hand, so the ‘s’ comes out before the ‘u.’ Also, she tells her fingers to type certain words, but they type others instead. When she means to type ‘standing’, it ends up as ‘standout’, and every time she tries to type ‘ever,’ it comes out with a ‘y’ on the end.

Since all of the words are wrong in the context in which she types them, but right in terms of spelling, her spellchecker will not catch them and flag them as misspelled words. Therefore, she must proofread everything to make sure her fingers haven’t pulled a fast one on her.

This is a common problem with typewritten text. You can pull up any news website, read a few stories, and you’ll inevitably find at least one typo that was caused by the writer not proofreading their work. More often than not, you’ll find multiple typos!

Here are a few sets of words to watch out for. They are words that your fingers often mistype even though your mind knows the difference:

  • their, there, they’re
  • hear, here
  • you’re, your
  • were, where, wear
  • insure, ensure, assure
  • to, too, two
  • affect, effect, affected, effected

You’re also likely to find that you have left a short word out. For example, “I want to a ballroom dancer.” It’s pretty clear that the word ‘be’ is missing from the sentence. Again, your spellchecker isn’t going to catch that for you. Please note: I am not saying don’t use your spellchecker. Rather, do both. First check all words the spellchecker finds and then proofread with your own eyes by reading every word, not just skimming.

You might find it difficult to proofread your own work. We often see and read what we expect to see instead of what’s actually there. You could get a teammate to proofread your work for you, but that might be more time than they want to spend on someone else’s work.

Instead, here’s a trick to help you catch typos and missing words. Read your text out loud, even if it’s under your breath. I’m sure your co-workers don’t want to hear you reading everything you write aloud, but it really does help if you actually move your lips and imagine you are reading to a real person or an audience, even if no sound comes out. You’ll be amazed at how many boo-boos you can catch this way.

Of course it does take a little bit of extra time on each project, but it will be time well spent. And saving yourself from the embarrassment of someone else finding your typos can make all the difference to your reputation!

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* Credit line: © Shirley Taylor. Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at shirleytaylor.com.
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