In our haste to meet a deadline we often either skip or rush the final stage of the writing process – checking our work for errors. Alternatively, we become so familiar with what we’ve written we no longer see the errors. Both these scenarios are common; we’ve all been there.
While some readers may be forgiving of minor typos, too many typos will distract your reader and make your work look less professional. So checking is important. If you find spotting errors challenging, try these three simple techniques.
1. Do several spell checks
Doing a spell check is quick and simple, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget to do it. Even though the spell check won’t pick up everything, such as misuse of words, it will identify many obvious errors. I recommend you get in the habit of doing a spell check each time you save and close a document you are working on. Then do a final spell check just before you print the document or hit ‘send’.
2. Carefully check your document at least once
As well as doing the spell check, always check your final draft manually. It’s critical to slow down when rereading your work as if you skim over the words, you’ll miss errors. My favourite trick is to place a blank piece of paper under each line of text as I read. It’s especially easy to miss errors if the print is small. When checking on screen, try magnifying the text to 150% or even 200%.
3. Read the final draft aloud
Leaving out small words like ‘of’ and ‘by’ is a common error and these omissions are often difficult to spot. Reading the text out loud will help you identify when a word is missing.
Proofreading something we have written ourselves is always more difficult than checking someone else’s work. It’s also more difficult to spot our own errors immediately after we finish writing. The longer you put the document aside, the easier it will be to spot errors. Even coming back to it an hour later will make a difference.