Tips For Proofreading Your Own Work
“Yes, its happened to my before, has is aslo happened to you?”
If anything similar to the above sentence has every happened to you (those “gotcha” typos), then take a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 1301 Business English and POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication courses on how to improve your proofreading and editing skills…
We all have certainly experienced those moments when you discovered that the document you just sent and thought was error free is not so error free! You proofed the file at least a couple of times, and yet you still missed some errors—what causes this to happen?
Well, according to one UK expert, University of Sheffield psychologist Tom Stafford, when we compose information and then proofread this information, we are working on two very different levels.
- Our brains consider the creation or composition of information as a high-level task.
The brain is busy focusing on wording that will effectively convey the specific thought at hand. At that point, the brain does not consider the small details such as spelling, word usage, or thought content as the most pressing matter.
- While extremely important to the effective transmission of communication, tasks such as correct word usage, spelling, grammar, punctuation, document formatting, etc., are viewed as generalizations or secondary by the brain.
According to Stafford, we sometimes tend to put ourselves on “auto pilot” when performing these second-level tasks.
So how can we become more effective proofreaders? Click the link to Leah McClellan’s guest blog on Write to Done to see the full list of helpful steps that are definitely worth practicing. These 10 steps and their explanations can help to ensure that your online and hardcopy documents live up to professional expectations:
- Wait until you’re completely finished with the actual writing and editing.
- Don’t get distracted—minimize your interruptions.
- Analyze your work sentence by sentence. Consider reading the material aloud.
- Proofread several times for different types of errors, spelling, word usage, thought content, etc.
- Don’t lose your focus. If you notice a format issue while checking spelling, or if you need to look something up, make a quick written note (or insert a typed comment) to come back to this item later.
- If you do make a last-minute change to a few words, be sure to check the entire sentence or even the complete paragraph over again.
- Verify facts, dates, quotes, tables, references, text boxes, and anything repetitive or outside of the main text separately.
- Stay focused and remain objective. If you find yourself drifting off and thinking about something else, go back over that section again.
- Get to know yourself and the types of mistakes you typically make. How many of us have made a mistake by incorrectly using sight, site, cite or they’re, their, there?
- Check format last, and make sure your formatting is internally consistent, e.g., the same level subheadings are formatted identically, indentations, centering, bold, spacing, etc. Business letters, e-mails, or memos should follow a standard business formatting style.
BTW–Can anyone spot the five mistakes in the first sentence of this blog?
If you want to improve your writing and editing skills, consider taking POFT 1301 Business English and/or POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication in the BOSS program at Richland College. Richland College is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, and both online and on-campus courses are offered. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, firstname.lastname@example.org 972-238-6215.
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