If you’ve ever worked with a professional proofreader on staff, you know they are just below Thor and Hercules in the pantheon of heroes. You really don’t appreciate their value, until they are taken from you, and a printout of that 90-page website document—with SEO templates, inventory lists, addresses, phone numbers and legal disclaimers—arrives on your desk to be searched for errors. The battle has begun.
Those will be your initials in the upper right hand corner of the first page averring the document’s integrity—and then damning you when the site goes live and millions see in the navigation on every single page “Abut Us.”
Typos are terrorists. They hide among the innocent. They can destroy careers, murder client relationships and parade your self-esteem on a pike through the center of town.
How you can fight back. Most companies—due to lack of foresight or budget—don’t have designated proofreaders, so the onus falls on, ideally, everyone. Here are some tips on how to proof effectively and win the war on errors.
- Run spell check, but don’t trust it—it won’t catch homophones (words that sound alike), misused words, and many capitalization errors (spell check is very likely working with the enemy)
- Read the document silently and then again aloud.
- Read for one type of error at a time—say, spelling on the first pass, punctuation on the second, etc.
- If the document is in Word, use the Track Changes and Comment functions (thus marking the landmines for those following you).
- Read it backwards; misspellings become more evident when the mind isn’t running smoothly over a narrative path.
- Double check figures, proper names and fine print.
- Print the document with the Track Changes and Comments and read again.
- Use your finger to track each word as you read.
- Use a blank sheet of paper to screen what has yet to be proofed (an alternative to, or used in conjunction with, #8 above).
- Take a rest between readings.
- Have one or more associates proof your proof (the enemy can’t hide from all of you).
- Remember, the dictionary is on your side.
If you think you are above proofreading or simply want to be entertained, check out this list of atrocities.
For further reading (and a more advanced battle plan) check this out.
The war on errors is ongoing and never ending. And one we cannot afford to loose.
–From the braintrust @Creative Dimensions