Some things in life are just plain wrong. Referring to a week at home as a ‘staycation’, and believing macramé will ever look good on your living room wall are both sure signs of going over to the dark side, for example. In a business scenario, publishing important documents without first conducting a thorough proofread is about as dark as it gets. Shame on anyone for thinking a ‘quick read over’ will do. It won’t. Use these seven top tips to help you come back into the light.
1. Wait until the end
There’s no point in proofreading until you’ve finished writing and editing. Only once you’re satisfied with what you’ve written should you turn your attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Vigilance is key, so forget being creative – just focus your laser-like attention on catching slip ups.
2. Print it out
If you proofread on screen, you’ll miss a great deal as you scroll from one page to another to compare spelling, formatting, heading hierarchies and so on. Printing out your document lets you see the whole picture and you’ll do a better job as a result.
You simply cannot proofread well if there are distractions. Abandon your mobile, turn off your computer, lock yourself in a cupboard if you must, but for heaven’s sake make sure you’re somewhere quiet and brook no interruptions. Blissful silence will improve your proofreading no end.
4. Read aloud
Sure, it can feel a bit weird at first, but hey, you’re in a room on your own, so who’s to hear? The good news, however, is that you will ‘hear’ the errors. To be super-thorough, vocalise punctuation – ‘Since landing, comma, the aliens have made unreasonable demands, full stop, space’. Works like a charm.
5. What’s the preferred style?
Is it ‘short term’ or ‘short-term’? Is it ‘judgement’ or ‘judgment’? (Both are acceptable, by the way.) If you’re going to use the global find/replace function then take care as a change may not be appropriate in every instance.
6. Keep a list
Often a query will come up as you’re proofreading but giving in to curiosity there and then will see you lose your focus. Make a list of anything that needs checking and do so at the end.
7. Final formatting
You’ll save yourself a lot of bother and heartache if you check formatting as your final task. You may have moved text around or needed to add in more info, which all affect layout. So, for the sake of your sanity, the checking of spacing, bullet list indentation, font size and hierarchy and style of headings can all happily wait until the end.