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Prevent Sloppy Writing: 8 Proofreading Tips

Don't let poor proofreading cost you your job
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Office Management

Prevent sloppy writing: 8 proofreading tips

Working quickly is a virtue … unless you're proofreading. You'll likely glide over grammar errors and speed past misspellings. Instead, slow down and follow these tips:

1. Take your time. You can't proofread a document at the same speed you read a novel, and you definitely can't proofread while talking on the telephone.

2. Increase the text size. Slow yourself down and catch more errors by printing out the document and reading one line at a time. If you're proofreading on the screen, enlarge the document — say to 130% — to make it easier to proof.

A misplaced decimal, a name spelled wrong, a word misused, a number transposed – brush it off and the consequences can be dire. Don't leave this important task to chance.

3. Read it backward. To slow yourself down on short pieces, read the piece word-for-word backward, from end to beginning. This forces you to examine each word. You may not catch grammar mistakes, but you will catch misspellings.

4. Read it aloud. Reading aloud helps you hear grammar errors, in particular.

5. Use different colors. If several people need to review the same document, use different colors to mark changes, making it easier to track.

Learn to proofread with perfection, get a grasp on grammar rules and sharpen your editing skills. If you need your written communication letter-perfect, we can help. Polish your writing with Proofread with Perfection: Proofreading and Editing Techniques for Flawless Communication.

6. Play a mind game. Each sentence has an error, and it's your job to find it. Find and destroy the error, and you win a trip to Paris!

7. Use the buddy system. Team up with a co-worker to "cross-proof." Often, you can't see your own mistakes, but someone else can. When a co-worker catches an error that you missed, don't be defensive or angry. Be thankful that someone caught it.

8. Use in-house style. Having your own style guide allows you to customize your rules, and it also provides a concise reference for the most frequently used items. Disperse your in-house style guide throughout the company and customize your computer's spell-check dictionary to reflect the in-house style guide.

Join us on Wednesday, September 16, for our popular webinar, Proofread with Perfection. Fred Kniggendorf, Ph.D., will discuss the most common types of errors, what you can do to catch – and fix – them, and the skills you need to produce effective, error-free communication.

Program highlights:
  • When to use a comma before the seven coordinating conjunctions
  • How to practice proofreading by watching the news on television
  • One very outdated proofing tip you'll hear about at practically every writing seminar
  • Why it's important that you have a style guide available when you write
  • Fred KniggendorfShould bulleted items have periods? We'll talk about it!
  • Why you need to know basic punctuation rules
  • How to recognize trite and overused business words and phrases ("Pursuant to," "We are in receipt of") and some suggestions of what to use instead
  • What to look for when proofing and editing displayed and paragraphed lists
  • Editing out wasted words (e.g., "that are," "which is," "who was")
  • Why you should read a document aloud. (You'll catch errors and determine how it will sound to the reader as they sub-vocalize.)
Most readers of reports and emails are skeptical of the information contained in documents that are riddled with easily corrected surface errors. Don't let yours be one of them. Register now for Proofread with Perfection!
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