If you have a document ready to send for printing, the last thing you want to find is an annoying mistake when you check over the finished results. If it is for a commercial purpose, typos can make your company look unprofessional, and students will want word-perfect copy. Here are some top tips for editing and proofreading your work thoroughly.
Don’t assume a spellchecker will catch every mistake
Of course, most of us use a spellchecker to correct our work, and everyone makes the odd typo. However, a computer programme can’t distinguish between homophones, which are words that sound the same, but are spelt differently and have different meanings. Commonly confused words include stationery/stationary, and compliment/complement.
Read for clarity of meaning
When you have read through for spelling and punctuation errors, take a break from the document for as long as you can afford to, and then read it with fresh eyes. Does it convey the message in a way that is easy to understand? Do you use unnecessary jargon? Does it convey the appropriate tone of voice?
Use this read through to sharpen up any vague or long-winded sentences. Bear your target audience in mind as you read, and ask yourself if you are talking to them in a clear and direct manner. Is the language right for their level of education or knowledge, and is it too formal or too flippant for the type of information you are conveying?
Read it aloud
Reading aloud, or using the text-to-speech function on your computer, is an excellent way to pick up on those little words that get missed out. When reading, your brain may automatically compensate for a missing word if the overall meaning of the sentence is still clear. Reading aloud can help pick up on these small errors.
Hearing text read out loud can also help you write more concise sentences that flow together well. Set aside plenty of time to do this where you will be free from distractions, because it’s one of the most important steps in the proofing process.
Change it up
Changing the font style, size, and colour, can help you to read the text with a fresh pair of eyes. This is because our brain will make shortcuts when processing a familiar document, and this can make it harder to spot any errors. Just make sure you save a new copy, so you don’t end up sending a green document in 14pt Comic Sans to the printers!
Read it backwards
For some people, reading the document backwards is another way of seeing it fresh, and picking up on those tiny details that our eyes can slide over. This can admittedly be quite time-consuming and tedious for a longer document.
Ask a colleague or friend to read it
No matter how many times we read a text, sometimes there are things we just don’t spot, or didn’t know were incorrect. This is where a second pair of eyes is useful. Ask your second reader to point out any grammatical or spelling errors they spot, and also to comment on the clarity and readability of the text.
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