This post was originally published on a company’s intranet and received 3,530 views, 163 likes and 119 comments:
It’s an inconvenient truth for a communications professional. The assumption, and expectation, is that we are wizards of words, geniuses of grammar and professors of proofing.
The truth is…it’s hard to write, edit and proofread your own work. I have suffered the embarrassing misfortune of published and unpublished typos. Nothing that drastically altered the meaning of a piece (like $1,200 vs. $12,000) but the occasional ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re,’ ‘on’ when I meant ‘one,’ misspellings galore, and the dreaded missing word, where you hope the reader correctly guesses what you actually meant to type.
The worst tale I have to share was in a job interview, the person interviewing me asked me to explain why I had typos on my resume. GASP! Absolute mortification. Music of impending doom in my head. Dread in my heart (see Comms-shaming photo to the right). More on that later.
The good news is that proofreading and editing are skills that can be improved. The key to minimizing typos is time and concentration – two things that can be scarce in a busy work day. Here are some tips I find helpful when proofreading:
- Let it sit. Whether it’s an email, a proposal or a PowerPoint, move onto your next to-do item and come back to it later. The time away will offer a fresh perspective and improve your brain’s ability to correct errors, because it will reduce its ability to “auto correct” as you read.
- Print it. I always catch more typos if I’m reading a printed copy.
- Read it again, again, and then again. At least three times. Once for content, once for typos and once double-checking details (e.g. testing hyperlinks, correct dates & numbers, names spelled correctly, etc.)
- Read it aloud. I spent more than 10 years as a television journalist, where stories are heard, not read, which is likely why my proofreading skills are so abysmal (yes, I had to spell check that word). Reading aloud can help identify errors or confusing sentences. If, while you’re reading, you stumble over a sentence consider revising.
- Read it backwards. This tactic is particularly helpful when identifying duplicate words, misspellings, or words that are correctly spelled but it’s the wrong word (they’re vs. there vs. their).
- Ask someone else to review it. This is critical if it’s a highly visible project. Be specific about what you would like them to look for – grammar, typos, content, etc.
Sending an important email or posting a blog can be nerve-racking. Once you have reviewed your email/blog/proposal and reviewed it again, take a deep breath and hit the send/publish button.
Oh, and I did actually get the job with my typo-laced resume, so I may be a semantic sorceress after all!