3 Steps to Proofreading

ProofreadingDo 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.


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2 Responses to 3 Steps to Proofreading

  1. chris reed February 3, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    If I may add to this. Though I agree we need to proof, whether we do it, or someone else does it, can make a difference. For years I told my customers to give their project to someone who is NOT at all familiar with what you or your company does. And remember spell checkers are that and ONLY that. And even a spell checker will not replace the wrong word.

    I have a great example of that. I have a customer who does plumbing. We did the printing of one item several times before we found something wrong. In the small print at the bottom, they were listed a “B*** S*** Pluming.” We all got a big laugh out of that. If I remember correctly, it was on the 3rd or even 4th printing we’d done before anyone noticed it! But what if we wanted “sea” and got “sex”? Oops.

    • Jodi Blackwood February 5, 2015 at 4:43 am #

      What you are saying about different sets of eyes doing the reviewing is spot on, Chris. It is so easy to keep reading a misspelled word without seeing it! Many years ago, I worked for a hotel that had undergone a huge renovation and was hosting an open house. A last minute sign arrived for the lobby, directing guests to the “dinning room”. Yup, someone neglected to proofread — or whomever did didn’t know how to spell. It was very embarrassing.

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