Whether it is your business cards, website, flyers or blog, proof checking errors can give a poor impression of your business.
It is actually quite hard to proof check. A number of psychological experiments have been carried out which show that we tend to see what we expect to see. One well-known example is this one.
This effect seems to be worse if you try to check something you created yourself. You will almost certainly read what you think is there because you know what you are trying to say. Your brain will compensate and skip over the error. One way to reduce this effect is to let some time elapse before trying to proof the copy.
To ensure your business documentation always shows you and your company to the very best advantage, here are a few tips for checking your work more effectively
1. A spell checker
This is a great starting point, but cannot be totally relied upon since it won’t take account of context. As a result, you can find yourself “Barley able to continue yourself at the thought of attending the concert”.
This is a free web based tool that will check all of your online work. It doesn’t work with offline tasks but is marvellous for blogs and websites. I have it installed and find its suggestions very helpful at times.
3. Read Aloud
Reading it out loud as well as silently is a great way to check whether the words flow well. You will also find ultra-long sentences as you will run out of breath part way through reading out your sentence. Reading aloud also assures you that the text makes sense, is well phrased, and points haven’t been missed out.
4. Print it Out
By all means, proof check on the screen first to identify glaring errors. However, proof checking on a screen is quite difficult and it is easy to overlook mistakes. Since mistakes are much easier to locate on a hard copy document you will get a more accurate outcome if you proof check the hard copy document.
5. Multiple Checks
Don’t try to find every proof checking mistake at once. Read the document once to find spelling errors. Then read the document again to search for grammatical errors. Read it a third time to find missing or additional spaces, and so on.
6. Phone a Friend
If possible, ask someone to help you. Take turns reading the document out loud to each other whilst the other person follows the text to try and catch any proof checking errors. This method is brilliant for proofing numerical information because numbers seem to be easily transposed.
7. It’s the small things that matter
Don’t overlook the little words. “Or” and “of” are often used in place of each other in error.
8. Vary your Route
When checking tables, it can be easier to read down columns to check information, especially if you would normally read across the rows when using the data. Some people also like to read the document backwards, particularly when looking for spelling errors since the sense of the information is disrupted and you are less likely to skip over something because your brain has “filled in the blanks”.
9. It’s not just the words
Check your photos, illustrations and figures are the right way up, captioned correctly and any captions or numbers match the text. Any numbered lists should be checked to ensure the numbers are sequential. If you are using references and footnotes, ensure that everything is correctly cross-referenced, and accurately numbered.
10. Fresh Eyes
Sometimes all that is needed to catch that last little error is a fresh pair of eyes. Because our brains are programmed to see what we expect to see, it can be very difficult to spot errors if you are too close to the project. Someone who has had no input into the document may find proof checking errors which you have overlooked.
If you want to ensure your business documents are as accurate as possible and would like to avail yourself of my fresh eyes, please get in touch with me here.