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The No. 1 Rule for Proofreading Your Work on the Job

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appalled

No one likes to proofread their work. It’s annoying. You just spent all this time writing something, and now the only thing you want to do is send it off.

But to skimp on the review process could doom even the best-written paper, brochure, press release or PowerPoint.

Why? Because even one typo could distract the reader and, worse yet, cheapen all the hard work you just did.

Since nearly all of us write on the computer and no longer by hand, you put yourself at a disadvantage if you rely exclusively on the computer screen to review your work. You’ve been staring at the same Word document for so long your eyes tend to glaze over, and you can miss obvious errors.

So, here’s the trick to improve your proofreading:

Print it out.

That’s right. Just print out the document. For some reason, holding the work in your hands lets you see it differently. The words jump off the page, and typos you didn’t see before become readily apparent.

Editing is such an underrated part of the writing process. It’s not enough to skim through your work and click “send.” In fact, the best writers are also great editors. They pore over what they write to make absolutely sure it’s ready.

This is so important that it’s no stretch to say that your reputation is at stake whenever you attach your name to a piece of writing.

Case in point: Team Romney

Remember this massive blunder at the start of the summer? When the Romney campaign officially released its mobile app in late May, it wrote “A Better Amercia” in huge white letters across the app’s main screen.

Did you miss it?

They spelled it “AMERCIA.”

The Romney camp was probably so excited to present the mobile app to the public that it missed the glaring error. And the Web had a giant laugh at the campaign’s expense.

That’s why proofreading is so crucial. You would hate to spend hours on a work project and then grimace when you—and everyone who reads it—spots a typo. No matter how minor the error, it will affect what readers think of your work—and of you.

Will you catch every single mistake using the print-it-out method? Of course not. But the strategy gives you an edge every time.

A few more proofreading tips:

  • Read your work aloud. A sentence can often sound great in your mind, but when you say it out loud, it might not flow well.
  • Ask sharp editors to have a look. Find coworkers you trust and have them review your work for content as well as grammar.
  • If you have the time, sleep on it. The best time to do a final proofread is the day after you’ve written the piece. Sure, this requires working ahead of time. But it allows you to feel like you’re reading your work for the first time, and maybe you’ll decide that a sentence you were in love with a day before doesn’t really make the cut.

It’s worth the extra effort, because when you present a flawless piece of writing, no one gets hung up on your miscues. Instead, they can focus on your message.

Readers won’t have to ask, “Wait, is it ‘its’ or ‘it’s’? I can never remember…” No, they’ll simply enjoy your writing as intended.

So don’t let a typo here and there can ruin all your hard work.

Whoops. Almost missed that one. Think it’s time to print out this blog post…

Danny Rubin is a media consultant based in DC. He writes News To Live By, a blog that offers daily tips on how we can apply the lessons of the news to our own lives. Follow him on Twitter at @NewsToLiveBy.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004121012059 Larissa O’Connell

    It is so easy to skip this critical step, especially if you are already running up against a deadline. There are some great tips in here that I know our students will benefit from, whether they are working on a classroom assignment or a resume and cover letter. Great post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1822707172 Carolyn Stern Spanjer

    So true! I know employers who won’t even look at a resume if there is a typo. They just throw it out. How is that for a career changer?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708406870 Ruth Roth

      My husband ALWAYS notes errors in grammar, spelling, etc. It definitely matters.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001605676599 Sean Landry

      Carolyn….What bothers me more than ever is that employers discriminate more now than in the past. Iif you go into an interview and they learn that you are deaf via your use of a cochlear implant, hearing aid(s), lip-reading, interpreter and so on, your chances of landing a job is so miniscule unlike in the 80s to the 90s…unless you are applying to the Federal Government. I think employers today need to be more accommodating like they were back then.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001605676599 Sean Landry

      and what’s more…trying to prove discrimination did happen is VERY difficult at best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=24800677 Luciane Pacius

    Sadly, some people write the way they text. The death for proper grammar.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=621457772 Kristy Engels

    best proofreading trick I know is to print it and then read it backwards. Forces your brain to look at each work individually so you are more likely to catch an error.

  • Pingback: Be a Better Proofreader - Career Girl Network()

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1034531846 Leigh Dubie

    I still write out on paper, then transfer to the computer, it makes you read what was stated and fix any mistake or grammar as you type it up. Always do more than one, once over to make sure it flows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000112051136 Tony Goddard

    These are some great tips. Because your written work tends to go up the organisation it creates an impression of you by those that make decisions about your career. I’d add that it’s important to use short concise sentences to get your ideas across and also to make it clear to the reader at the start what the purpose of the piece of work is eg to get approval to something.

  • Manuscript edit

    The post is good but not satisfactory, not enough tips on proofraeding and misses some impotant tips like,

    *Avoid relying completely on spell-checkers. As spell-checkers have a
    limited glossary, some words may show as misspelled, while in reality,
    these words won’t be actually present in the spell-checker glossary.

    *Avoid spotting and revising several things at once. Try to proofread
    only one type of error at a time. etc
    for more info on proofreading visit my blog post “Tips on Proofreading

  • http://rsmithing.com/ Richard Smith

    Also, if possible: take that printed document to a quiet conference room, your car, or some place free of distractions so you can better focus on editing – minus phone calls, emails, passers-by, etc. and also read out loud at a comfortable volume.

    Once you have a marked-up hard copy to edit from, check off the edits with another color pen or highlighter as you get them done. That way, you’re less likely to miss anything.