The most missable proofreading errors

Last month, we set you a proofreading task. After the results were in, two things became clear. One: you like a challenge. And two: some errors can outfox even the most eagle-eyed of us. Don’t let these ones fool you twice.

1. Punctuating around brackets (or, ‘watch where you stick that’). It may seem tidier to pop the full stop inside the closing bracket, but only do this when the brackets contain a full sentence. When they contain a mere aside (as above), you need to complete the sentence outside the brackets by putting the punctuation outside too. Do note, though, that asides may include an exclamation mark (heck, yeah!) or question mark if necessary, but these won’t replace the closing punctuation outside the brackets (get it?).

2. Make sure you read the big print. Subject lines and headings can contain mistakes too. For some reason, it’s easy to forget to proofread titles, headings and subject lines. But you can be sure any mistakes left in them will leap off the page at your reader.

3. A mnemonic may be necessary. A touch specific, this one, but the misspelled ‘neccessary’ was missed by many in the challenge. If you find it tricky to keep track of how many ‘c’s and ‘s’s you need, remember: it is necessary to have one collar and two socks.

4. Inspect the unexpected. Most of the time we easily recognise mistakes because they clash with what we know is right – what we’re used to seeing. So be wary of – and double-check – any words you’re less familiar with, as the alarm bells aren’t always there to ring. These may include foreign or Latin words or jargon, or even where to put the apostrophe in an unusual possessive, such as each other’s.

5. Spell-check is a fair-weather friend. Use it, but don’t rely on it. It will happily leave you with such blush-inducing blunders as using your instead of you’re, goon instead of go on, lets in place of let’s and even an umber of typo’s rather than a number of typos.

A good tip is to keep a written note of these stealth errors (plus any of your own personal blind spots). Have it to hand when you’re proofing to make sure you always remain vigilant.

And if this has got you in the mood for a challenge, why not have a go at our spelling quiz?

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