Have you ever thought about how you present yourself and your company in words?
While one can make mistakes as egregious as a misspelled word on a billboard, even the simplest error, such as a grammar mistake in an email, can harm your relationship with clients or customers. To a client, a minor mistake in casual correspondence might raise questions about your work on larger projects.
In these situations, it is important to sweat the small stuff, thoroughly proof everything, and err on the side of caution.
I’m guilty of proofreading everything I read, often to a fault: signs, menus, brochures, you name it. I get a rush finding even the smallest of errors, but that rush is mostly just thankfulness that it wasn’t my team’s mistake.
We have a rule in our firm: Nothing leaves our office without being properly proofread and tediously edited. While it sounds easy enough, with so many distractions and the frenzy of client requests, this can be hard to do. We’ve implemented a few tactics to maintain accuracy and to catch the small things:
I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times this step gets missed. Sometimes, in the interest of getting things done on deadline, the simplest fail-safe is forgotten. No matter how many people read the document during the editing process, make sure everyone runs a spellcheck when they are editing, and that one final spellcheck is run just before the document is finalized.
Print it out
It’s hard to proof something on a computer screen, and doing so can lead to mistakes being missed. As a rule, I print everything out and make my edits on the page before I go back and make corrections in the electronic document. To make sure I don’t miss anything, I also cover all of the text beneath the line I’m proofing with a blank sheet of paper or a ruler.
Read it out loud
When you read your document out loud you should notice weak sentence structure or poor word choices, in addition to recognizing spelling errors. If you prefer, ask someone to read it out loud to you. Sometimes you have to listen to your writing being read out loud before you can determine if your message is as clear as you think it is.
Mind the common mistakes
Whether it’s as simple as subject-verb agreement, or the pesky apostrophes in non-possessive words, create a checklist of the items that are missed frequently. I find myself changing “over” to “more than” several times in the course of a normal week.
If I’m proofreading a document for someone else, I leave the edits in track-mode so the writer can see what I’ve changed and ensure that the edits are correct, as well as use the information for future drafts.
Proof it once more
Even after all edits are made, it is important to go back through your document to make sure you didn’t miss anything, including formatting errors or extra words and phrases that were introduced in the editing process.
While these practices may seem tiresome and redundant, these steps have gone a long way to ensuring accuracy in our work.
As an added control in our team’s public relations efforts, I have a mandatory rule that all of our staff must set an autocorrect in our computer programs to ensure that “public” always contains the letter “l”. Again, it may seem minor, but that embarrassment is one that can stick with you for a long time.
This article originally appeared in the January 10, 2014 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal found here