As much as we may proofread our work, use spell checker and have others look over our copy, it is all-too-simple for one, two or even three pairs of eyes to miss a mistake. In fact, it is scary how often I receive information from professionals I know to be credible and still find an error in their writing.
So the question becomes how can we avoid these small mistakes that can be so costly?
An article onragan.com offers some insight:
- Define the process: "proofreading should be approached with the same degree of care and premeditation as the writing of an article," author Jamie Pietras points out. Sufficient time should be set aside for editing, regardless of existing time restrictions. Also, policies should define what proofreading is and what it's not; this means making the important distinction between copy editing and proofreading and choosing one of the three forms of proofreading (see the article for more details).
- Get organized: eliminate dirt, trash and clutter when sitting down to proofread. Keep a style guide and dictionary by your side, and use them to weed out inconsistencies. Pietras recommends printing hard copies for editing computer-generated or web-based materials. She also advocates being consistent with your proofreading marks. Important note: the writer should never proofread his or her own work.
- Get to work: Pietras emphasizes the importance of working in phases while proofreading. For example, proof for format and for content in two separate phrases. Remember that computer spell checkers will not flag errors in diction that are spelled correctly.
See the article for more tips and a proofreader's checklist. No matter what you do, do not skimp when it comes to proofreading. As Pietras notes: "proofreading is not a formality but a necessity. A failure to execute in this area could negate hours, days, weeks or even months of hard work on a piece of copy."