Give yourself five seconds to read the following line:
Fifty florins for a flagon of fluff
How many Fs did you count? Six? Seven?
There are nine.
It’s so easy to miss the obvious when you’re reading a document you’ve written or been involved in writing because your brain knows what’s coming next, so it jumps ahead. We all excel at jumping to conclusions and by drawing on our language experience, we make assumptions about which word is coming next.
That’s when we make mistakes, missing typos and inconsistencies.
After spending countless hours drafting a complex annual or business report, tender, white paper or other content, it’s impossible to proofread properly, even though your company’s brand reputation could depend upon it.
At Proof Communications, when a client asks us to proofread a document we’re often told: ‘You won’t find much as we’ve read through the document in-house a few times’.
The reality is we make an average of 10 mark-ups a page. In a 100-page document, that’s around 1,000 mark ups.
Here are some suggestions to help you successfully proofread any type of document:
1. Read one syllable at a time. By reading one syllable at a time you will find more mistakes than if you gloss over a whole word at once.
2. Read from the last word to the first. You’ll slow down your reading although you won’t catch missing words.
3. Read the document aloud. You’ll hear the mistakes. You’ll find that you stumble over incorrectly spelled words or bad punctuation while trying to read your writing aloud.
4. Proofread from a hard copy. It is much easier on your eyes to read on paper than it is to read from the screen. Also, when you read something in another format, you catch more mistakes.
5. Keep a list of your usual typos. Once you know the types of errors you typically make, keep a list of them. Use it when you proofread your work. You’ll catch your most common errors before you go searching for others.
6. Ask somebody else to proofread your work. Another person who has not been involved in writing or editing the document is more likely to pick up what you’ve missed.