Proofreading skills are crucial, especially in the age of technology. Proofreading is the skill of locating errors in written communication. Effective proofreaders find and correct errors within documents (and other copy) such as typos, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and formatting. A correctly formatted, error-free document conveys a positive message to the reader and a good image of the writer and/or the organization behind it. This message reflects to others a strong attention to detail and pride in their work, creating a good, long-lasting impression. Careless errors, on the other hand, leave a negative message, and in the world of business, no one wants to work with careless people and no one wants sloppy work. To survive in a competitive technological world, it is critical that all documents within a corporation or business present a positive image of that company.
Unfortunately, too many people rely heavily on their computer’s spell check for catching errors, and this can prove to be a careless, if not costly, mistake. The secret to effective proofreading is reading well. Proofreading requires reading copy as it is, not as you may want it to appear. You should always proofread methodically, don’t rely solely on your word processing spell check feature. Even the most sophisticated spell checker will not catch all mistakes. For instance, suppose you keyed ‘star’ when you meant to type ‘stare.’ The spell check will recognize ‘star’ as a correctly spelled word; therefore, the typo will be overlooked. Documents should not only be proofread on screen but the printed hard copy should be carefully checked as well. This is referred to as comparative proofreading.
The most common error in written correspondence is the typo. Examples of typos include misstrokes, omissions, additions, and transpositions. A misstroke happens when the wrong character is typed, such as be instead of by. These errors are oftentimes easily overlooked, especially by the spell check feature. An omission is the result of a character being left out of a word, such as the instead of they. This is another easily overlooked error. The complete opposite of an omission is an addition, where an unnecessary character is unintentionally added, such as your instead of you. A very common error occurs when we transpose characters in the wrong order, such as teh instead of the. This error is generally picked up by the spell checker, but not always.
Proofreading is an essential step in the writing process but unfortunately, it is one that is often overlooked. At times, we are more concerned with getting thoughts down on paper or finishing a project quickly rather than making sure that our keying, grammar, or spelling is accurate. Every well-written document relies on correctly used punctuation and grammar. Without it, your document would not flow easily from one point to the other, making it nearly impossible to understand. Consistency is also an important part of the proofreading process. This includes a document’s style or tone, notable facts, usage, and formatting. Accuracy in words is not the only thing to look for when proofing a document. Accuracy in numbers is also critical. Statistical information can include phone numbers, addresses, dates, figures, Social Security numbers, percentages, etc. One error in any of these can throw everything off track and prove costly to a business. For instance, the wrong address can result in delayed or no delivery. Inaccurate numbers or figures can result in wrong balances, or as with advertisements, the wrong sales price could spell disaster for a company. No one wants to find an error after numerous copies have been printed. It is important to proofread carefully before a costly mistake like this occurs. Effective proofreading requires concentration and results in documents that are not only attractive but also easy to read and understand.