11 September 2011


I've mentioned this before, but it is true -- proofreading is a lost art.  I think people are over confident with spell check and forget that it can only do so much. 

I was working with someone and we were comparing a list to make sure we had all the right people with their names spelled right, correct title and address.  The first thing I did was count the number of people on the list I was working from and then I counted them on the list I was getting the information from, it was out by three so that was a quick way to know that there was an error.  I then had someone read it over with me so we could easily identify the missing people and add them to our list.

Another time we were doing a large RSVP list.  The first thing I did was a spell check.  That identified about 10 errors.  Next I eyeballed it and compared the names to the email addresses.  If it was spelled one way in the name section and spelled another way in the email address, that was another flag that there was a possible error and we needed to investigate it further.

I had received all the RSVPs by email so the next step was to make sure I had not forgotten anyone who had emailed me their attendance.

The last step is always to do a read through the document looking for spelling errors and to make sure addresses and names are correct.  This might mean going back and checking a name and address by Googling the person's name or title.  You don't want to send an invitation to the premier of a province and then realize they've had an election in that province and the person was replaced with someone else.

Reading through the document is a necessary step after you have done a spell check.  Sometimes you need to read through it looking for one thing and then read through it again looking for another.  For example, I was reading through letters that we were sending to a variety of people.  It referred to a province in two places and in each case the province had to match the location of the person we were writing.  The first time I read it over to make sure it was accurate for spelling and grammar.  The next time I read it through I was looking to make sure the province was correctly identified in each letter.  I then read through it again to make sure the numbers referred to in each letter were accurate for their particular province.  It takes a bit of time, but is well worth it and avoids embarassment to your company. 

Depending on what type of document you are proofing, you may also need to read it over and make sure it is formatted consistently throughout.  Using Styles in Word is a great way to ensure that you always use the same style throughout and if there is an error it is easily changed from Heading 2 to Heading 1 or whichever is the case. 

Emails are sent so quickly that they are often the source of much embarassment if we press Send and send an email to the whole organization about a personal matter or to the person you are referring to in the text of the email.  This would be particularly embarassing if you work in Human Resources for obvious reasons, but also in other areas of your company.  Try not putting an address in the To section until you are finished composing the email and then when you are sure it is ready to be sent, you can put the address in and send it.

Using spell check and then reading it over for accuracy should be done in email as well.  Email is used so much today that it is becoming the official correspondence and should be treated as such by ensuring accuracy and filing it appropriately as you would a letter.

Take the time to proofread.  It will show you pay attention to detail and will be worth the extra effort when people see that you don't make many mistakes or that mistakes are caught by you. 

In my job I read correspondence and other documents before they even go into my boss and he likes it that way.  When he knows I've gone through it, he can then relax and read it for content and know the rest is looked after.  Two eyes are definitely better than one and if you work with your boss as a team then the products coming out of your office will look good and that will reflect well on both of you.

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