How’s this for a proofreading horror story: Because of a teeny little typo, people calling for a free cab service on New Year’s Eve ended up connecting with an “adult” chat line instead. Oops. That’s the kind of mistake that most likely ends in a lost client and a very, very unhappy boss.
Proofreading is about more than making sure you’ve caught spelling and punctuation errors. Before you can really sign off on a proofreading job with a clear conscience (and a happy client), make sure you’ve checked the numbers, too:
1. Triple-check all contact information. Verify addresses (including ZIP codes, suite numbers, etc.), check the phone numbers (to be absolutely sure, give ‘em a call), and visit URLs.
2. Make sure page numbers add up. Does your document jump from page 10 to page 13? Print out your document and take a look. And, while we’re on the subject of page numbers . . .
3. Review the index, table of contents, etc. Again, printing the whole thing out and checking is the best method.
4. Check on dates. Critical when proofing calendars, schedules, invitations, newsletters. Don’t assume that the time, day, month – or even the year is correct. Always try to find out for yourself. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, ask your client to verify the information as an extra precaution. Most clients will appreciate the extra attention to detail.
5. Read the fine print. Copyright dates often go unnoticed (especially after ringing in a new year!) – so make sure your documents are up to date.
6. Do the math. Double check math in examples – with math problems, if you change one number, you’ve got to change all related examples. And sometimes, proofreaders skip right over the examples because they’re not in the body copy.
7. Follow the rules. There are lots of rules when it comes to numbers. A few to watch out for: spelling out 1-9 and using numerals for the rest (unless you’re writing dialogue). You should spell out at beginning of sentences as well. Also, you’re not supposed to switch styles if there are two or more numbers in a sentence — so you’d have to say “I love the numbers 1 through 100.” Or “I love the numbers one through one-hundred” — not “I love the numbers one through 100.”
8. Be consistent. Make sure that throughout your document, you’ve used one format. Things like dates, phone numbers, equations, percentages, and addresses should be uniform. Your client probably has an in-house style for things like this. No style guide? Ask your client’s preference (and start creating a style guide for next time); or check out the always-helpful AP Stylebook.
Have any other proofreading tips? We’d love to hear from you!
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