We’re all human and very rarely does anyone produce an article, press release, internal communication plan or any other form of written work free of errors right out of the gate. This is why the review process is critical. At CPR, we make it a best practice to have other team members review important materials before sending them to clients to prevent embarrassing errors.
But even having several eyes review a document is not a perfect system. I once did a final review on a press release only to realize that the contact information was wrong. It is sometimes the most obvious items that escape even the most critical eye. I came across an article on Ragan’s PR Daily written by Daphne Gray-Grant that offers 10 proofreading tips that are especially helpful and easy to incorporate into your proofreading habits.
Consider the following:
1. Allow at least one day to pass before proofreading. This can be challenging, especially if you work in a deadline-driven environment. If it is possible, your fresh eyes will be able to catch unconscious mistakes that many of us are guilty of. For example, typing “thought” instead of “though.” If you can’t wait a day, I would recommend having other members of your team proofread your work as they are likely to have a different perspective.
2. Print it out. This will make many environmentalists cringe, but you will catch more errors if you print out your document and proofread in hard copy. With handy tools such as tracked changes, most editing is done electronically. But Daphne Gray-Grant writes, “the human eye reads material on screen much more quickly and less carefully.”
3. Use large font. If you are unable to print out your document as suggested in tip two, use a large distinctive font such as Papyrus 20 point when reviewing material on screen. This will make it easier to catch errors that could slip by.
4. Question facts. In addition to unconscious mistakes and typos, addresses, dates and titles are often goofed up. Most proofreaders will trust that this type of information is accurate. The most common is to mismatch days and dates. Be sure to double check the accuracy of your facts.
5. Pay attention to the obvious. Similar to dates and addresses there are other “invisible” items that are often overlooked. Daphne sites an example where the client’s name was misspelled in 48 point font. We often put too much trust in the obvious items such as titles and contact information, but that should always be given a scrupulous eye.
6. Begin at the end. This is a tip that I have not yet tried, but like the idea of. Daphne suggests that professional proofreaders often read documents backwards line by line. This will keep the focus on grammatical errors instead of content.
7. Put a ruler under each line. By putting a ruler under each line that you read, it will help your eyes from jumping ahead to the next line.
8. Consider what you might have left out. When crafting emails or pitches, it is sometimes the most obvious elements that are omitted. I am usually so focused on getting all of the details right that I forget to include a phone number or require an RSVP. After you craft your pitch or invitation, double check that you have not left anything out. I find it helpful to ask yourself, what would I need or want to know?
9. Make a list of common errors. Making a check list of common errors helps give you something to look out for. After you make the list, check your document for those you have specifically listed. For example, using “their” instead of “there” or “its” instead of “it’s.”
10. Read your work aloud at least once. By reading your work aloud, you’ll get a feel for how it actually sounds and will catch more errors. This is my favorite trick and what I find most effective when proofreading materials.
While these are great tips to help you catch mistakes and avoid embarrassing errors, my number one recommendation is to have other team members review important documents. It is helpful to have multiple folks review docs. And if everyone from your team is implementing some of these techniques, you are more likely to catch those sneaky errors!
What techniques do you find most effective?