It’s turned into proofing week here at the Emphasis blog. In this final part, we aim to finish turning you into mistake-spotting machines.
Stocking up on red pens is just the beginning. Follow these tips to ensure you always prove your proofreading prowess.
• Proofread in the morning if you can – if you’re tired, you’re more likely to miss things.
• Print documents off to proofread – it’s much more effective than trying to do it onscreen.
• Proofread at least twice – once for sense, once for technical accuracy.
• Read backwards for typos so you’re not distracted by the meaning of the words.
• Use a blank sheet of paper to cover material not yet proofed and point to each word as you go.
Look out for:
• clusters of mistakes: the elation of spotting one may lead you to miss the one right next to it
• repetition of words – particularly split over two lines
• commonly mixed up words, eg there and their, or principle and principal
• little words – big words draw the eye
• brackets and speech marks – is the second one in the right place?
Here are a few clarifying pointers – inspired by the challenge – worth raising:
• It’s very easy to overlook titles, subtitles and headings, or subject lines in email (particularly as they won’t be spellchecked). Don’t! There was a howler in this one.
• Depending on your company’s style, you may not need to put a comma after the salutation and sign off in letters and emails. If you do use them, be consistent – ie use them after both
• ‘Its’ only needs an apostrophe when it’s short for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. When it shows possession, it doesn’t have one.
• If you’re having trouble placing an apostrophe in a less-than-familiar construction (eg each other’s work), just reverse it like so: the work of each other (not others). So here it needs to go after the r.
• You’d only put a full stop – or any other punctuation – inside a bracket if the brackets contain a full sentence. If they contain an aside, the punctuation will be outside. For example:
From now on, let’s make sure that nothing is sent out without first being proofread (this includes email).