It’s Monday morning and you’ve just set up at your desk with a fresh cup of coffee. You like to get in early, to help you ease into your day, so you turn on your internet radio and open your favorite news outlet’s website to see what you may have missed over the weekend. You check on the standings for whatever sport is in season, read a few personal interest stories, and finally get around to the news so that you’ll be prepared with possible topics for water cooler discussions later on in the day.
You get a couple sentences into the second paragraph and then there it is. You see it and at first you don’t pay it too much mind. Then you read it again. Something isn’t right so you read it out loud to yourself and you realize that something is wrong and are now a little annoyed. You’ve found a rather simple spelling or grammar mistake in the article that you were trying to enjoy, but because of this gaffe -which is growing larger and larger by the second in your mind- you’re instantly turned off from the article and now wonder to yourself as to how in the world a professional writer made such a stupid mistake that could now be read by thousands or even millions of people. Maybe you consider changing it up and trying a new publication that has higher standards and better accuracy in their text. Just like that, your old faithful has now become a second-rate tabloid to you and who know how many others. This publication has now lost some of its valuable readers, but it all could have been avoided if the author would have just included a few simple steps in their process.
Remember, proofreading takes practice and you won’t become a professional overnight, but hopefully these five handy tips will help to guide and transform you into being your office’s word-wizard!
1) Focus on one thing at a time.
Pick one at a time – sentence structure, spelling, or punctuation – and read your work through entirely before moving onto the next one. Don’t confuse yourself by trying to look for all of your possible mistakes and correct them all at once. Being systematic and precise will result in a higher quality and more consistent work, with fewer mistakes.
2) Break your paragraphs down.
The acceptable length of a paragraph could be debated for forever and a day. The most important thing to remember when writing is to maintain cohesive and comprehensive thoughts in your paragraphs and to not overload them with too much. Does that last sentence feel a little out of place? Try rewording it or using it in your next paragraph instead.
3) Read slowly and out loud.
When all else fails; read your work out loud. Yeah, your co-workers may give you a weird look when you start talking to your computer screen, but I would wager that 95% of all mistakes in writing can be identified and corrected by simply reading your text out loud. If something doesn’t sound right, then it probably isn’t. Remember to emphasize punctuation when reading out loud too. Pause when you come to a comma or semi-colon. Come to a complete stop when you encounter a period. Read your text the way you want it to sound and you’ll cut down on your mistakes faster than you could have imagined.
4) Crowdsource for support.
No, you’re not trying to get funding for your Kickstarter, but asking a co-worker that you trust to check your work is always a good idea. This can be tricky if time is tight, but if you are serious about improving the quality of your writing and have someone that you are able to bounce your text off of, then accounting for this time in your production process will absolutely be of benefit to you in both the short- and long run.
5) The wolf in sheep’s clothing – spellcheckers and grammar checkers.
Never place all of your trust in spellcheckers and grammar checkers! These wonderful little helpers of the word processing world often miss simple things and can be more harmful than helpful. They do have their upsides in that they’re great for catching longer words or ones that you may have been a bit unsure of, but don’t be fooled; they’re, there and their do not mean the same thing.