Do you know how to proofread? Please note I am not asking if you proofread your work, but if you know how to do so, effectively. Far too many people appear to think that using the spell check program on their computer constitutes proofreading, when in fact all spell check does is search for misspelled words. Spell check does not tell you if you have used the correct words, or even if your words make sense; that is up to you, the writer. And judging by what can be found on-line, in e-mails, on social media and professional sites, such as LinkedIn, very little proofreading is taking place.
Proofreading does not mean quickly reading back over your words once to see that all looks good. It is easy for our eyes to see what our mind is saying, even if that is not what is in front of us. By all means, run the spell check program and make any spelling corrections needed — that’s a quick and easy fix. After that, follow these three steps to you review your message:
1. Read your words out loud. This allows you to hear your message as well as see it, and is a good way to find misused words and incomplete sentences.
2. Read your work backwards, word by word, paragraph by paragraph. This is a great way to look at each individual word – is it spelled correctly? Is the apostrophe in the right place?
3. Read through your words once again, from beginning to end, using your finger as a pointer to follow along. You might consider using a finger on your non-dominant hand as it will force you to pay closer attention than you might otherwise. Are you actually saying what was intended? Did you use the appropriate “their, there or they’re”?
You have now proofread your work. Congratulations!
One additional note: if you are creating a document to print, such as a brochure, or writing an important missive, ask someone else to proofread your work as well. An extra set of eyes is always beneficial to the outcome.
Why is it so important to proofread? Your words, verbal and written, represent you. If you are content to send out messages and documents with errors, what else are you casual about – deadlines? Accuracy? Follow-through? Or are you a professional, who pays attention to detail, and is focused and responsible in all you do?
How do you want to be perceived? The impression you make does matter.