I find that most writers approach proofreading as a dreaded afterthought. Once they finish the actual writing, the idea of poring over their copy one last time to discover tiny errors seems…loathsome.
Trust me, proofreading is infinitely important. Nothing looks sloppier than using “your” when you should have used “you’re.” Or misspelling the name of the company you’re writing about. Little errors can drown out your message, but clean error-free copy strengthens it. Check out these simple ways to pack more punch into your proofreading:
Print out your work. Reading on the computer screen strains your eyes. You’ll be surprised how many extra errors you’ll catch by printing out your copy and reading it out loud.
Vary your sentence structure. Copy that consists of simple subject verb object structures over and over is boring. Pay attention to your sentences so that one sentence starts with a prepositional phrase and the next one begins with a gerund.
Alter the lengths of your sentences. Too many long sentences make your copy cumbersome; too many short ones make it feel choppy. For interesting and vibrant copy, some sentences should be long and some should be short. Like this one.
Check for consistency. Make sure that if you hyphenate a word once, that you hyphenate it throughout your work. Also, take a look at your bullets. They should all start with the same type of word: subject, gerund, action verb, etc.
Whether you look forward to proofing your work or loath the thought of doing it, remember that it has to be done. Put in a little extra time and your copy will be cleaner. For added security against typos, have someone – anyone – take a look at your work for you. A new set of eyes will find many of the tiny mistakes you’ve been too close to see.
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