By Katrina Olson
We’ve all had that sinking feeling. You’re looking at your printed brochure or poster, and there it is, staring at you—a big, ugly, glaring typo.
You can’t believe you didn’t see it earlier. You’ve looked at it probably 20 times. But somehow you missed it.
In this age of texting and Facebook messaging, typos don’t seem like that big of a deal. But good grammar, writing, spelling, punctuation and word choice still matter to a lot of people—like your bosses, your customers, and your prospects.
Mistakes make you look uneducated, unprofessional, careless, lazy—or all of the above. To avoid being embarrassed and losing credibility, you need to know the three types of proofreading.
There are three types of proofreading? What?!
Yes, there are at least three—and that’s after you’ve edited for content, clarity, flow, style and transitions.
Proofreading is about correctness and accuracy. To be thorough, you should make at least three passes—one for each type of proofreading listed below.
- Content Proofreading
Check for grammar, spelling, punctuation, style and capitalization—all those errors we typically look for when proofreading. If you’re at all unsure about a word or phrase, look it up. You may have been spelling a word wrong your entire life because you never bothered to check.
- Format Proofreading
Review the document to make sure that all headers, subheads and copy are in the proper style, point size, font, etc. Check for consistent indentation and line spacing. Also, make sure any bullets and numbers are consistently spaced and indented. Check the table of contents against the actual page numbers.
- Comparison Proofreading
Comparison proofreading may involve comparing the document with a marked-up version that someone previously edited or proofread—or comparing the document against another document to make sure they’re identical.
Following are a few tips and checklists to help keep your writing error-free!
Tips for Effective Proofreading
- Find a nice, quiet, clutter-free place to proofread.
- Keep your style guide and dictionary (or computer) handy.
- Have someone else proofread your work, and proofread theirs in return.
- Proofread a hard copy; it’s easier to spot errors.
- Use standard proofreader’s marks so there’s no misunderstanding.
- When proofreading for spelling, read the document backwards.
- Read the document aloud, reading contractions as two words to catch potential errors.
- Allow plenty of time; don’t wait until the last minute to write, edit or proofread.
- Know what errors you commonly make and search for them specifically.
- Don’t rely on spelling check and grammar check in Word. It won’t catch homophones and words that are used incorrectly, but spelled correctly. (Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently.)
- Check the headers and footers.
- Check the bullets to make sure they align properly.
- Check for boldface and italics.
- Check the font style and sizes.
- Check all headlines.
- Check photo captions.
- Check all attributions.
- Check for proper indentation throughout.
- Check for consistent line spacing.
- Spell out numbers in heads and at the beginning of sentences.
- Make sure teasers and page numbers are accurate.
- Make sure numbering in lists is accurate.
- it’s, its
- your, you’re and you
- there, they’re and their
- to, too and two
- on, or, of, off
- in, is, if, it
- lose and loose
- then, than, that
- and, an
- along, alone
Recently I worked on a quick-turnaround brochure for a client. She and I had read, edited and proofread the copy more than a few times. Right before it was to go to the printer, I suggested we have someone else proofread it. Of course, our proofreader found a typo.
The moral of this story (and this article) is: “Proofread at least three times. Then have someone who has never seen the document proofread it once more.”
You may never produce a completely error-free document or marketing piece, but it’s a worthy goal.
Katrina Olson is an award-winning advertising copywriter and creative director, marketing and public relations consultant, freelance writer, content developer, trainer/coach, former college professor, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at katrinaolson.com.