We have all been there. The deadline is approaching and you need to send/submit/publish/print a document of utmost importance (think essay, CV, tender, web page, press release, application). Your qualification, career or business – and, at worst, your reputation – are at stake. The content is crucial and you can not afford to make a mistake. You didn’t hire a proof-reader this time, so it’s up to you now. Don’t panic! A spell-check goes without saying but here are a further seven insider tips for DIY proof-reading.
Print a copy for review. It is easier to spot errors on paper than on a screen. Have a highlighter, a red pen and a pencil handy to identify spelling errors, make corrections and to add notes. Set your text to a small but legible font size, select the Greyscale option in your printer settings and load used paper – text-side up – to reuse the blank sides. (This will save you money, ink and paper. If you follow these tips, you will also save time by reducing your future margin for error!)
Reading your text aloud will permit you to match what you see with what you hear and, in turn, will help you to recognise when there is a disparity between the two. In particular, look out for repeated and omitted words.
Start every new sentence with a capital letter and end it with a full-stop. Capitalise the word ‘I’ when writing in the first person. Is your use of punctuation clear and consistent? You might be surprised at how often these basics are overlooked, even by professionals.
Step outside of yourself for a moment. Would a younger person understand what you have written? Would a non-native speaker grasp your message? Could any part of your text be simpler or clearer? Which parts could lead to confusion? Use the Synonym tool in Microsoft Word to check you have used the correct spelling and meaning of a word or phrase. If in doubt, click and find out!
If you want to come across as professional, meticulous and reliable, you must be consistent in every aspect of your document. This includes font type and size, indentation, text formatting, alignment, reference conventions, numerical formats for dates, measurements and currencies and the selected language (e.g. UK/US English). If your project comprises several documents, use the same conventions across all files.
When you are reviewing key documents, nothing is better than a fresh pair of eyes. Set aside your proof copy and do something different to break the routine; make a cup of tea, go for a walk, do some sit-ups or listen to some music. When you feel you have had a sufficient break, return to your document and start the process again. Follow these tips as you go and repeat this process once or twice more, according to your schedule.
A one-to-one session with a qualified and experienced linguist will identify the sorts of errors you make in your documentation and outline the methods needed to improve. Perhaps you are working on a large text for publication but your budget doesn’t stretch to employing a proof-reader outright. A workshop session gives you the opportunity to present the text in question – or a sample of your literature – to your trusted language specialist. Learn the essential techniques used in correcting texts, improve your confidence in working with words and find out about the best tools available for the job.
I am available to work on all English language text types, in any size, any format and within any subject area.
Call or email me with your project details for a free tailored quotation and schedule.