Proofreading: What to look for and how to catch every mistake

Everything you need to know about ensuring your writing is immaculate. 

Proofreading is a task that’s often overlooked but really needs to be part of every production schedule for important stakeholder documents. Whether you’re producing marketing content, compliance documents, or an annual report, proofreading is essential.

If you fail to proofread your work effectively, you risk damaging your business’ reputation. You’re only granted one chance to make the right impression. Even minor mistakes can lead to a potential client questioning whether your business is the right option for them. Correct spelling, grammar and even formatting matter to your clients. This is true regardless of what industry or sector your business operates in. 

What should you look for when proofreading?

There are a variety of errors to be on the look out for when proofreading. Here are some of the key ones to be aware of. 

Misspelled words

When you’re typing away writing content it’s all too easy to misspell a word without realising. It could be an extra or missing letter. One example is ‘polices’ instead of ‘policies.’ Or it might be a word that is close to the original but has a completely different meaning. ‘Unclear’ and ‘nuclear’, for example. 

One of the problems with spelling mistakes is that they are often so close to the correct word that our brain assumes the word is correct when we’re reading back over our writing. Using a spell checker is useful, of course, but even this isn’t 100% accurate. You can’t beat a proofread by someone who hasn’t been involved in writing the content. It’s for this reason that companies will use a professional proofreader for their particularly important documents. 

Grammar mistakes

Because people don’t know what they don’t know, grammar mistakes are even easier to miss. If you’re not totally familiar with the complexities of English grammar, it’s easy to overlook grammatical errors. An apostrophe in the wrong place or missing punctuation can seem correct, unless you know what you’re looking for.

Typography

If you’re in a rush, it’s also easy to miss formatting mistakes. These are features such as the wrong hierarchy of headings, or variable line spacing.

Inconsistencies in formatting won’t always be immediately apparent on a computer screen. That’s why it’s worth printing the document. Sometimes changes to font or even the color of your text is clearer on the printed page. 

Steps to take when proofreading

Professional proofreaders follow certain strategies to ensure that nothing is missed. The key ones are set out below.

Read the content out loud

As mentioned, it’s all too easy for your brain to assume a word is correct, failing to notice a mistake. That’s why it’s worth reading anything that you’re proofreading out loud. You’ll hear the mistakes, even if you don’t see them at first.

Take breaks

Proofreading is time consuming, monotonous and it can be quite draining. Regular breaks are important. These give your brain a chance to rest and recharge. You’ll see the content afresh and be more likely to pick up errors and inconsistencies.

Get another opinion

If you’re worried that you are going to miss a detail or a mistake, then it’s always worth requesting a second opinion. You can send the work to a colleague or a friend who hasn’t seen the content before. 

Alternatively, if your document needs proofreading but you aren’t sure what to look for, you can rely on expert proofreaders. Expert proofreaders minimise the chances of mistakes being missed. They are especially useful if it’s a particularly important document. But of course, as we have discussed, any document is important when needing to make the right impression. 

Read ‘backwards’

Finally, you may want to try reading your work backwards instead of in the typical way. This simply means reading the last word in the document first and so on. You’ll see each word separately, not as part of the sentence. This is a great technique and works best for shorter documents. 

Contact us today for professional proofreading

At Proof Communications, we understand it’s critical that an organisation’s professionalism shines through in all of their communications. Our professional proofreading brings peace of mind to listed companies and government that all the components of their documents are the best they can be.

For more information on how our proofreading services can help you, get in touch today or ring us on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377 or email chrissy@proofcommunications.com.au.

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