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Proof Your Goof!

Who among us has not pressed “Send” only to find an embarrassing misspelling or grammar gaffe once it’s long gone? Here are some surefire ways to proofread your copy—whether it’s a quick memo or a quarterly report—to avoid that inevitable ignominy.

1.The most reliable way is to have someone read it. That fresh pair of eyes will see things you miss. Why? Because when you reread your stuff, you anticipate what’s coming and gloss over errors.

2. Let your copy get ‘cold.’ Put it away for as long as you can, even if you just pause long enough to get a cup of coffee. When you read it again, you will spot errors that escaped you before.

3. Use programs such as Editor in Word or Spellcheck to comb through your piece. It will find a lot of surface mistakes in spelling, punctuation, word repetition, and so forth. Warning: These programs are not foolproof. For instance, they won’t detect problems with homonyms, like ‘their’ or ‘there.’ And they don’t correct for meaning or coherence. They’re a boon if you’re in a hurry, but it’s still a good idea to use other approaches.

4. Change the appearance of your copy. Try putting your text in another font, point size, or color. Better yet, put your copy into columns, like a newspaper.

5. Print the document. Same principle as #4: It changes things to look at it on paper rather than on screen. Increase the spacing between each line; this forces you to focus on one line at a time.

6.Read your text out loud. You will be amazed at how errors pop out at you, including ones that involve meaning.

7. Be diligent about how you address your email. Many times recipients had been offended because care was not taken to determine how to address the email. For example, it is Ms. or Mrs. or Dr. or first name?

All these tricks can fool you into seeing things more clearly. If you still need help, let Business Writing That Counts! provide in-house business writing coaching when and where you need it. Call us: 425.485.3221.

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