No one likes to proofread their work. It’s annoying. You just spent all this time writing something, and now the only thing you want to do is send it off.
But to skimp on the review process could doom even the best-written paper, brochure, press release or PowerPoint.
Why? Because even one typo could distract the reader and, worse yet, cheapen all the hard work you just did.
Since nearly all of us write on the computer and no longer by hand, you put yourself at a disadvantage if you rely exclusively on the computer screen to review your work. You’ve been staring at the same Word document for so long your eyes tend to glaze over, and you can miss obvious errors.
So, here’s the trick to improve your proofreading:
Print it out.
That’s right. Just print out the document. For some reason, holding the work in your hands lets you see it differently. The words jump off the page, and typos you didn’t see before become readily apparent.
Editing is such an underrated part of the writing process. It’s not enough to skim through your work and click “send.” In fact, the best writers are also great editors. They pore over what they write to make absolutely sure it’s ready.
This is so important that it’s no stretch to say that your reputation is at stake whenever you attach your name to a piece of writing.
Case in point: Team Romney
Remember this massive blunder at the start of the summer? When the Romney campaign officially released its mobile app in late May, it wrote “A Better Amercia” in huge white letters across the app’s main screen.
Did you miss it?
They spelled it “AMERCIA.”
The Romney camp was probably so excited to present the mobile app to the public that it missed the glaring error. And the Web had a giant laugh at the campaign’s expense.
That’s why proofreading is so crucial. You would hate to spend hours on a work project and then grimace when you—and everyone who reads it—spots a typo. No matter how minor the error, it will affect what readers think of your work—and of you.
Will you catch every single mistake using the print-it-out method? Of course not. But the strategy gives you an edge every time.
A few more proofreading tips:
- Read your work aloud. A sentence can often sound great in your mind, but when you say it out loud, it might not flow well.
- Ask sharp editors to have a look. Find coworkers you trust and have them review your work for content as well as grammar.
- If you have the time, sleep on it. The best time to do a final proofread is the day after you’ve written the piece. Sure, this requires working ahead of time. But it allows you to feel like you’re reading your work for the first time, and maybe you’ll decide that a sentence you were in love with a day before doesn’t really make the cut.
It’s worth the extra effort, because when you present a flawless piece of writing, no one gets hung up on your miscues. Instead, they can focus on your message.
Readers won’t have to ask, “Wait, is it ‘its’ or ‘it’s’? I can never remember…” No, they’ll simply enjoy your writing as intended.
So don’t let a typo here and there
can ruin all your hard work.
Whoops. Almost missed that one. Think it’s time to print out this blog post…
Danny Rubin is a media consultant based in DC. He writes News To Live By, a blog that offers daily tips on how we can apply the lessons of the news to our own lives. Follow him on Twitter at @NewsToLiveBy.