The proofreader role is a high-pressure position on any team. The proofer of any document or asset being produced is often the last set of eyes on a piece before it goes live, goes to print or is distributed through another channel. Missing an error could mean a big financial or reputational impact for you, your business or organization.
For the GRIT team, proofing is an important daily task. Keep reading for the team’s top 10 tips for proofing success!
If you wrote it – find a different proofer.
Proofing your own work is next to impossible. Ideally, it is a best practice to have someone from your team who has “fresh eyes” and has not seen the copy before proof your document. When proofing your own work, your eye tends to naturally insert what you intended to write – making it very difficult to find errors. When in doubt, find a colleague or friend to read through what you have written. If proofing your own work is your only option, best practice is to read the copy backwards in order to catch errors.
Consider where and how the content will be used.
Where your content is being used can greatly impact your writing style, tone and editing choices. Copy for a blog may not be appropriate to use for a formal letter to your organization’s board of directors. Copy to be used as a formal letter may not be appropriate to be used in a news release for media, which should be written following Associated Press style guidelines. Carefully consider where and how your copy is going to be used prior to beginning to write or edit. Understanding the communication channel in which the copy will appear, as well as the intended audience for the piece can save you the time and heartache of having to “rework” your copy multiple times.
Read the document out loud to check tone and flow.
Reading a document out loud is one of our team’s favorite proofing methods. Reading out loud can help proofers identify areas where the flow of the copy stumbles or is confusing. Reading out loud may also increase the chances of finding proofing errors such as missing words.
Pay special attention to homophones, contractions and apostrophes.
Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and often different spellings. An example would be “there” vs “their.” In addition, incorrect contractions and apostrophes are errors often caught during the proofing process. Proofers should slow down to make sure contractions are being used properly to convey the writer’s intent and apostrophes are used in the correct location to properly demonstrate possession. For example, are you targeting all your customers’ needs or just one customer’s needs? The best way to ensure these errors are caught is to slow down when proofing and mentally flag as details you should review closely.
Don’t skip footer and header copy.
Proofing can be exhausting. By the time you reach the end of a long document, you may be tempted to assume information in the header and footer is a direct “pick up” from previous documents and does not need to be proofed. This assumption is a dangerous game to play. If it’s on the document you are proofing, it needs to be proofed.
If there is a phone number – call it.
When proofing phone numbers, your eyes can easily play tricks on you! The best way to proof a phone number is by calling it. This ensures the number is correctly written and nothing has changed with the business phone. A simple call takes no more than a minute.
Click on website links.
Website links should be checked as part of the proofing process. Sometimes proofers can find it distracting to check website links while proofing a full document. In this case, you may consider reviewing your document for grammar, tone, etc. in a first round of proofing and then returning to your document to check website links through a second round of proofing. Just remember, website links should be hyperlinked correctly (if the document is electronic) and should use the correct web address.
Don’t count on spell check.
Spell check is a great tool that is usually used as a first step in the proofing process; however, it should not be the only step. Spell check may miss mistakes and/or may flag words that are correct. It also will not pick up words that are homophones.
If using “track changes,” review your document after the changes are accepted.
When working with a team, using the “track changes” tool within your Word document can be helpful to share your edits with your colleagues; however, once changes are accepted, the tool may cause spacing issues within the document. After accepting tracked changes in Word, be sure to give your document one last review for spacing issues prior to considering it final.
Pay special attention to numbers and facts.
Any document that uses key facts or figures (like statistics) should be fact-checked. In some cases, you may consider hyperlinking electronic documents so the reader can quickly reference your source. In all cases, when using facts and figures, it’s a best practice to double check to make sure you have your information correct and your sources cited.
When it comes to content development and proofing, the details matter! Do you need help creating your next brochure, website, news release or other written material? We can help, so contact GRIT today!