Preventing goof-ups: 10 proofreading tips

No time to hire a pro? Follow these suggestions to clean up your copy.

When I see the published version of something I’ve worked on—whether it’s a book, brochure, website or newsletter—I never experience that delicious little frisson of excitement that should accompany all new things. Instead, I feel dread.

Where are the mistakes? What’s the client/boss going to hate? What could have gone wrong?

Call it glass-half-emptyism if you like, but I’ve been at this game long enough to know that mistakes get made. And, if you’re the editor, those mistakes are bound to be blamed on you.

There’s also one other truth. I was born an editor, not a proofreader. And I’m convinced that good proofreaders are thrust into this world with a special and delicate piece of DNA that the rest of us are missing. It’s kind of like the math gene or the team sports gene, both of which I lack. As a result, when time and budget permit, I always hire a professional proofreader. When I can’t, I use the following tricks to help me (and my readers) survive:

1. Try to allow at least one day to pass after finishing writing and before proofing. (Longer is even better.) This gives the necessary distance to catch the unconscious mistakes we all make, such as typing now for know or triker for trickier.

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