07 May 2009
You’ve planned, done an outline, written a first draft and edited. Are you done? Not quite. The last thing you need to do is proofread. And here’s the easiest way to do it.
1. Take a break
Preferably not a three hour one down the pub. But even a 15 minute break will refresh your eyeballs and help you spot errors more easily.
2. Print out your work
Yeah, I know it doesn’t do much for your carbon footprint. But it’s essential you print out a hard copy. It’s just so much easier to find errors reading from paper than a screen. It just is. Dunno why.
3. Read out loud
Read your work out loud. And slow-ly. This will make you read each word individually, and make it easier to find mistakes and poor sentence structure. Remember, if you’re stumbling over the words, chances are your reader will too. Warning: you may have to stand in the corridor or board room for this one.
4. Read backwards
Your brain is really clever. No, really it is. So it will always try and make sense of what you’re reading. So take the word out of context by reading your document from the bottom backwards. This will confuse your poor ol’ grey matter and make it easier to spot errors.
5. Work with a ruler
Keeping the ruler just below the line you’re reading will force you to slow down and focus on each word individually. Good news: you’ll find mistakes. Bad news: you’ll look like a six year old. But who cares if you produce perfect copy.
6. Touch each word
By touching each word with a tip of a pencil you’ll have to read really really slowly. Again, this will make it easier to find those pesky typos.
7. Check dates
PCs have an annoying habit of autocorrecting dates when you’re not looking. So make sure you check your dates carefully for consistency.
28th July 1972
28 July 1972
8. Check names and titles
Check the spelling of people’s names. And check titles. Is a person doing the same job throughout your document? And remember, titles shouldn’t have capitals unless they’re before the person’s name.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke today about the economic crisis
Gordon Brown is the prime minister of the UK
Jeff Turner, vice president of sales, spoke at the conference
Titles should be lower case if there’s no name attached.
The president of the company is an Oxford graduate
The managing director is on holiday
9. Check for abbreviated company names
At the beginning of a document, a company name should be spelt out in its entirety followed by its abbreviated form in brackets.
Structural Analysis Service Solutions (SASS) had a £100,000 turnover in August
The company can then be referred to in its abbreviated form throughout the rest of the document.
Unless it’s something well known like the UN or the BBC.
Watch out for odd brand names like Harrods, Currys and Boots (which are now all ‘apostropheless’)
10. Check for the second brackets or quotes
If you’ve “quoted” somebody or put something in (brackets) make sure the final speech mark or bracket is there.
11. Check formatting
Check your spacing between paragraphs, between lines (single or 1.5?) and between sentences. Old school typists leave a space between sentences. Like this. You shouldn’t.
Check headers and sub heads. Are they all in bold, same colour, same font?
Check fonts. Size, type and colour. Are they all the same?
12. Get someone else to read it
And finally, if you can, right before your document ‘goes to press’, get someone else to read through your work. Annoyingly, they’ll probably spot an error straight away. But it does mean you’ll get perfect copy.
Got any tips on proofreading? Let Turner Ink know.