Proofreading is one of my professional responsibilities, a critical component of ensuring my team gets quality materials out into the pharma communications space. But even if it isn’t a part of your responsibilities, I’d argue that we’re all proofreaders. Yes, even YOU there, the one saying, “I don’t proofread – I can’t proofread.” I bet you do, subconsciously at least; and you certainly can!
You’ve probably had this experience: you’re happily reading along, enjoying a book, online news article, blog post, or pamphlet for a local business, when you’re abruptly stopped in your tracks: your concentration has been hijacked by a typo, inconsistency, or a missing (or misused) word. As a reader, your flow has been interrupted. The intended message has been diluted. The person or company who created the content may just have dropped down a notch in your estimation. And…in that moment, you are a proofreader.
In your professional (and personal) communications, whether it’s for an audience of one or hundreds, make sure you don’t inadvertently tell readers they shouldn’t trust the veracity of your message.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true proofreading tips and tricks that even a nonprofessional proofreader can employ. And if you’re a professional proofreader, you’ve likely got some other tips and tricks of your own!
1. Most-obvious-proofreading-tip award goes to: use spellcheck. But don’t be complacent – it won’t catch a word that’s spelled correctly but used incorrectly.
2. Which leads to: reread for context; make sure the words that spellcheck didn’t flag are really the words you want. A few of some common “impersonators” include lead/led, then/than, and affect/effect.
3. Check for holes in your message – did you drop a word? Be sure to fill in any blanks.
4. Be extra diligent when typing someone’s name: spelling people’s names correctly is more important than almost anything else. Ever.
5. If you copy and paste text from one format to another (from PDF to Word, for example), check that everything has translated properly.
#5 #6 is “Check those numbers” – they are easy to transpose or mistype, but errors in numbers aren’t always easy to spot.
7. Don’t overlook paired punctuation – ensure both parts are there: parentheses, quotes, and brackets need to open and close.
8. Get a buddy – your brain is smart and knows what you intended to type. A fresh look may uncover some hidden proofreading gems.
The more you train your eyes and brain to read for typos, the more confidence you’ll have in your communications hitting the intended target with the full intended force.