Tips for proofreading your business writing

Tips for proofreading - proofreading red pencilFor small businesses, nothing reduces credibility faster than careless typos and sloppy spelling.

The trouble is, business owners are often so busy they neglect to notice the errors that can creep into their work, in spite of the latest word processing spelling and grammar tools.

Taking the time to carefully edit your newsletters, reports, emails, blog posts and marketing material while following these simple tips will make all the difference.

Here’s how to give your customers the right impression about your company’s competence and professionalism, with error-free copy.

Your proofreading checklist

Incorporate these new habits to quickly improve your proofreading skills.

  • Take breaks. It’s important to get up and stretch every 30 minutes. Set a timer so you don’t forget! Frequent rests improve productivity, so you’ll more easily catch that missing bracket, repetitive phrase or extra comma.
  • Do what you can to make it easy to read and minimise eyestrain. Adjust to a larger font, ensure your workspace has sufficient lighting and reduce the glare on your monitor.
  • Slow down. Effective proofreading means reading letter for letter, word by word, line by line – at least twice – through the entire document.
  • Proofreading isn’t just about correcting poor grammar, spelling mistakes and typos. Be on the lookout for inconsistent fonts and headings that need adjusting, too.
  • Not sure when to use a semi-colon, single quotes – or em dashes? Brush up on rules for punctuation, which will make the proofreading process easier and quicker.
  • Be consistent when choosing to use the serial comma, spelled out numbers, or a particular font. Develop a style guide that lays out preferred usage for your brand. This will make it easy for employees to follow “house style” guidelines.
  • Fact check your stats and cite your sources appropriately. Include live links for online copy and referenced footnotes for company reports, white paper or case studies.
  • Don’t overlook web addresses, phone numbers and links. These may need to be updated or removed if they’re out of date.
  • Know your patterns. Most of us tend to repeat the same spelling and grammar mistakes. We might consistently misspell the same word, tend to fall into passive voice, or forget to use quotation marks. Keep a list of your most common errors and use them as a checklist you can refer to when proofreading.
  • Use your computer’s spellchecker as a final proofreading tool, to catch any final sneaky errors – after you’ve reviewed your document, beginning to end, at least twice.

Final tips

Some of us are naturally skilled at catching grammar and spelling errors; for others, it’s a dreaded chore that often gets put off or ignored altogether. If this is you, it might be worthwhile to hire a professional proof-reader to take on your company’s larger projects.

You might also consider signing up for some of the latest online proofreading software, like Ginger or Grammarly, that can make the job of proofreading much easier and less time consuming.