Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Proofreading Tips

During a recent all employee email I wrote within my company I made a typo. I wrote 3 ½ hours instead of 3 ½ years when describing some positive results. I decided I would take this opportunity for improvement and learn some proofreading skills.

It’s difficult to proofread your own work because you’re so close to it – you know what’s coming next which often means you unconsciously skip along, missing typos and misspellings completely. With my experience making typos I think it's nearly impossible for someone to accurately proofread their own writing and be consistently successful.

Think about it: If you produce 1,000 words a day, and you let 1 typo slip by every week, that's actually a 99.986% success rate. If you think about it in terms of letters rather than words, since most typos happen at the level of letters, that 1 typo a week equates to about a 99.997% success rate.

Consider the common exercise often used in demonstrating the weaknesses of 100% manual quality inspection. Count the number of F’s in the paragraph below:

THE NECESSITY OF TRAINING HANDS FOR FIRST-CLASS FARMS IN THE FATHERLY HANDLING OF FRIENDLY FARM LIVESTOCK IS FOREMOST IN THE MINDS OF FARM OWNERS. SINCE THE FOREFATHERS OF THE FARM OWNERS TRAINED THE FARM HANDS FOR THE FIRST-CLASS FARMS IN THE FATHERLY HANDLING OF FARM LIVESTOCK, THE OWNERS OF THE FARMS FEEL THEY SHOULD CARRY ON WITH THE FAMILY TRADITION OF TRAINING FARM HANDS IN THE FATHERLY HANDLING OF FARM STOCK BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE IT IS THE BASIS OF GOOD FUTURE FARMING.

How many did you get?

Don’t beat yourself up too badly human error is inevitable. However, there are some steps you can take to help.

1) Use spell-checker on your computer, but be careful the computer can often make errors.
2) Set aside time to proofread without interruptions or distractions.
3) Print out a copy to proofread instead of reading on screen.
4) Read it aloud, read it slowly – stimulate another sense.
5) Read it backwards looking for surface elements rather than the meaning of document.
6) Use a ruler to focus on one line at a time.
7) Check the numbers in your document.
9) Take a break between writing and proofreading – at least 20 minutes.
10) Most important – Get someone else to proofread.

What tips or techniques do you use to proofread your emails, articles, white papers, presentations, procedures and instructions?

I tried these tips with this post. Did it work?

2 comments:

  1. Although it's not specifically about proofreading or typos, I found this to be very helpful:

    http://leancommunications.com/The%20LEAN%20Communicators%20Tips%20for%20Writing%20and%20Editing%20Leanly%202009%20edition.doc

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  2. Tim, you did a great job here. I'm glad I found this site. You posted such a helpful tips. It seems to me that proofreading is one of the most important steps to be done after writing. It helps correct mistakes. Many thanks for this useful data. :)

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