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Four Simple Steps to Sharpen Your Proofreading Skills

And Keep Your Good Reputation Intact!


Your intention is to produce, print on paper and in digital, and publish absolute perfection. You’ve assembled a thought-provoking newsletter, maybe a sales letter, a clever infographic, or a great-looking white paper for content marketing at a trade show within the next month. You’ve personally read it through a dozen times – just to be sure of your accuracy. And everyone in the office has read it at least once. So, you know it must be right.

 But when your 5,000 copies come back from the printer, and you pull out your first piece from the carton, there it is. The headline at the top – the one you were so proud of:


 How could you have missed it? Just one letter, “R.” It makes all the difference between ridicule and respect. Mistakes, no matter how small can soil your reputation.

The truth is, whenever you put anything in print or digital, your reputation is on the line. Not just errors involving pricing and numbers, but mistakes anywhere in your document or website, can have a negative effect on your bottom line - and your success.

 “I used a spellchecker,” you say. “So, I know it’s got to be perfect!” But, oh how wrong you are.

Sure, a spellchecker catches blatant spelling errors. But what about the time you typed “form” when you meant “from”? Or (as noted in our headline example) when you typed “you” when you meant “your”? “The” instead of “they”? “Of” instead of “off”?

So, start sharpening your proofreading skill set! Your computer just doesn’t know what your fingers forgot.

It doesn’t know that you’ve typed the date of your next fundraising banquet as happening in “Mar” when you meant to type “May” And if you forgot to include the actual date or time of the event, or that all important phone number, your computer isn’t going to remind you (yet)! Phone numbers, dates, times ­– no matter how much memory your computer has, it just can’t comprehend these kinds of misprints.

When you keep these four simple proofreading guidelines in mind, you’re on your way to producing perfect documents – every time.

 Here are four simple steps to refine your proofreading:

  • Give up your ego.
  • Image is everything.
  • Do it just one more time.
  • Finally, neatness counts!

NEVER assume you’ve caught everything. You haven’t. You’re too close to it. And everyone makes mistakes. Be willing to admit there may be some blunders in your final draft, or printer’s proof. Take criticism with grace. Realize that other comments, even if you disagree, will contribute valuable feedback that will eventually improve the overall quality of your work and save you embarrassment as well as the potential cost of reprinting.

In the end when you put forth your best possible proofreading image, you will instill greater confidence in anyone who reads what you’ve written. The better the impression you make, the more you’ll appeal to your audience, and the more success you’ll garner form your endeavor.

In other words, double proof, triple proof, proof again… and proof one last time. In addition to someone who works with you, always try to have someone else proofread for you – someone who has never read your document before and preferably someone who knows nothing about it. The idea is to get someone who can look at what you’ve written with a fresh, objective eye.

As you proofread, you need to communicate the errors, omissions, and problems you discover. Use a good, thin, red pen or sharp red pencil. Do not use a regular pencil, or a blue or black pen. They’re extremely difficult to see and read. Be as utterly neat as you possibly can. Use sticky notes - they make things easier to follow. Be thoroughly clear and concise with any comments or queries.


Learn the standard Proofreaders’ Marks at Grammarly or do your own research. Mark changes in the margins as well as the text, so that the typist’s eyes are easily alerted. Another how-to guide using direct marketing and mail for success!