Proofreading Made Easy
Have you ever read an email, newsletter, memo or document from someone at work only to find a mistake glaring back at you? Even worse, a resume littered with grammatical errors? Although these errors may seem trivial, they often cause the reader to question the writer’s level of professionalism while stumbling through their writing. Unfortunately, it isn’t only the writer’s reputation at stake, uncorrected writing errors also threaten to shift the focus away from the content and towards the mistakes themselves. While the result of these errors may be damaging to your reputation, the key to avoiding errors in your professional writing is simple: proofread. Luckily, proofreading doesn’t have to be a daunting task, just follow these five simple steps to ensure that your audience is able to focus on the message you are trying to convey.
- Take a break: Whether you are sending an important email, putting together a PowerPoint presentation or printing out the monthly newsletter, it is wise to take a step back from your writing before considering it complete. This break is especially important if you have been working on the same task for a long period of time since you may be too close to it to notice small mistakes. Taking a step back to work on something else for a short period of time can make the difference in how well you are able to view your writing, proofread, and make final edits.
- Read and reread: Mistakes often occur when you are too busy to actually read your own writing. As a result, it is necessary to make the time to read through your writing as a part of the proofreading process. If possible, read it over at least four times to eliminate errors in four different areas: spelling, word usage, punctuation, and grammar. While spelling errors are usually caught by utilizing spell check, what spell check doesn’t catch is errors in word usage; as a result, checking your writing for correct word usage can save you from replacing “ensure” with “insure”. Also read through once to make sure that punctuation marks are placed appropriately, and once more to double check your grammar. After all, the improper use of “there, their, and they’re” will not go unnoticed.
- Read out loud: Sure, you may feel ridiculous reading a memo you wrote out loud, but verbalizing your writing allows you to hear what your eyes may have missed. While you are reading out loud, take note of any areas that don’t sound fluid. You may find that you simply needed to add a comma, or you may have accidentally left out a word. Keep in mind that any areas that you stumble through, your audience will also.
- Ask for a second opinion: This step is not necessary for every email that you send; however, if you are working on a presentation or a companywide newsletter, ask a coworker to look at your writing with an editing eye. Again, this is useful because sometimes you are simply too close to your own writing to catch seemingly small mistakes. Remember that if you do ask for help, you also need to be willing to accept critiques!
- Evaluate your work: As you proofread your writing, start recognizing where most of your mistakes are made. Do you tend to misplace punctuation or misspell words? Do you find yourself constantly changing “there” to “their”? By noticing trends in your writing while you are proofreading, you can improve upon them to make your writing better and proofreading faster.
What may seem like a small grammatical error to some signifies a lack of education or professionalism to others. Don’t let your writing become a negative reflection of your ability to succeed in your career; instead, simply take a few extra minutes to follow these steps to proofread your writing.