Fixing errors, mistakes and blunders

We all make silly writing slip-ups. Often they're harmless, if not embarrassing. But occasionally they can be very bad for business. Here's how to avoid them.

The simple, distinctly unglamorous way to avoid typos and other writing, spelling and grammar errors is to edit and proofread your work thoroughly. Here are my top tips for doing so.

How to be your own editor

When you’re editing your work, don’t be afraid to change the order of sentences or re-write them. Of course, you want to catch mistakes, and make sure that your document is factually and grammatically correct. But also try to make your writing as snappy and interesting as possible. This may mean crossing out words or entire sentences.

  • Go through the document and ask questions related to any gaps in what you’re trying to convey. Remember, to keep your reader in mind. How much do they know about the topic? Will they follow what you’re saying or do they need more explanation and examples?
  • Re-order the document structure, if necessary, to ensure that the most important information comes first. Ask yourself what the main message of the document is and make sure that this shines throughout the piece.

Proofreading like a pro

After the editing process, use the following tips when proofreading:

  • Always print out a hard copy of the document. Having both a hard and soft copy doubles the chance of spotting errors.
  • Make sure the document is readable and makes sense to someone who knows nothing about the products or issues discussed.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on your computer spell-checker. It doesn’t read for sense, only accuracy, so it won’t know the difference between ‘angel’ and ‘angle’ for instance. Use a dictionary if you’re not sure.
  • Use a pencil to point to every single word. Scientists have found that when reading we don’t read every single word. Instead, our eyes move in jumps, fixating on key words. Using a pencil and ruler slows your brain down.
  • Don’t forget to proofread the titles – it’s surprisingly easy to skip this step.
  • Finally, if you can, get a colleague to look over your document before you submit it for approval or send it out. It’s far easier for a fresh pair of eyes to spot any glaring errors and you may want to make some additional changes before the final submission.

If you do make a significant mistake, own up and put it right straight away.

It’s one thing to misspell a client’s name, and quite another to put completely incorrect information into a report because you forgot to fact-check. Editing and proofreading can be painstakingly dull, and take up a lot of time. But it’s worth it, for both peace of mind, and knowing that you can confidently stand behind the accuracy of your writing.

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