Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

The Importance Of Proofreading

Have you ever proofread a letter, leaflet or information sheet 20 times, then printed out 10,000 copies … only for someone to look at it and point out a glaring error? Yes I guess we’ve all been there, done that! If you are responsible for proofreading important documents (and aren’t all documents important?) then here are my tips for effective proofreading:

  1. Avoid distractions. It’s best to proofread in a quiet environment, with no disturbances such as phones, background conversation etc.
  2. Read the work out loud. Using proper intonation will help you to spot faulty sentence construction and bad punctuation and grammar.
  3. Concentrate on reading one word at a time. This takes practice. It’s fairly common to skim over the words when we read normally. Try to make a conscious effort to stare at each word in turn. This isn’t as slow as it sounds – it’s just a different reading technique.
  4. Be methodical – read one line at a time. Use a ruler to guide your eyes so that you don’t miss the odd line.
  5. Take a break occasionally. Especially with longer documents, you need a break now and again. Everyone loses concentration after a while, so set a time limit and then take a break.
  6. Remember to look also for inconsistencies in style and presentation, such as headings that suddenly switch from capitals to lower case, or a change in font or spacing.
  7. Leave a decent period of time between writing and proofreading the work. Reading with a fresh approach will help you to spot more mistakes.
  8. Print out a hard copy for the final proofreading. Somehow we always manage to miss a few errors if we rely on proofreading on screen.
  9. Keep your knowledge of punctuation and grammar up-to-date. Unless you know what is correct, you cannot spot mistakes.
  10. Ask someone else to do a final check of important documents – we tend to be able to find other people’s mistakes much more easily than our own!
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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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