Proofing – A Critical Function Not to be Overlooked

Business people universally agree that mechanical mistakes detract from the professionalism of communications. However, those with proofreading responsibilities commonly experience real frustrations in producing error-free work. They typically identify certain specific obstacles to accurate proofreading.

1. Overlooking mistakes when proofreading

2. Making time for proofreading in a pressured environment

3. Lacking self-confidence in a reliable system

4. Providing helpful, non-critical proofreading support to others

5. Lacking certainty about acceptable guidelines.

In the rush and pressure of sending communications, writers are often tempted to skip the final proofreading step. They send it to their printer, and approve it without really proofing it. After all, if the content is clear, who will mind a few mechanical mistakes?

In reality, readers do mind. Many readers report that their opinion of the writer’s professionalism goes down a notch with every error they see. Mechanical mistakes send a message that writers are not investing much effort in the communication that, in effect, writers do not care.

In addition, overlooked proofreading errors can sometimes change the content often with some significant financial results.

1. One government agency wasted $3 million by not catching a hyphen error when proofreading a purchase order. In originally writing the order, the agency had meant to say, “1,000-foot-long radium bars.” The order was typed, “1,000 foot-long radium bars.”

2. One insurance firm reported that an employee mailed a check for $2,200 as a settlement for a dental claim. Payment of only $22.00 had been authorized.

3. A magazine accidentally ran a cake recipe in which “3/4 cup” was printed as “1/4 cup.” Irate readers sent complaint letters and cancelled their subscriptions.

Obviously, there is also the financial cost of having to reprint the project correctly.

A great writing that clearly depicts why live personal proofreading is so important is the following:

I have a spelling checker;

It came with my PC;

It plainly marks four my revue

Mistakes I cannot sea.

I have run this poem threw it;

I am sure your pleased to no.

It is letter-perfect in its weigh;

My checker tolled me sew.

(By: Penny Harper)

The Three Principles of Proofreading

1. Go over a communication several times with several quick run-throughs are more effective than one slow reading.

2. Look for one type of error at each step.

3. Check for large, non-text errors before checking for small errors in the text.

Proofreading Techniques

Step One:

Cool off, and if you created the communications piece, proofread later what you work on now. Be sure that you have access to an easy-to-use, updated reference like the Gregg Reference Manual. Also, make sure that you have a recent dictionary close by.

Step Two:

Get a preliminary overview of purpose and content. Read over the communication quickly to make sure that all major parts/sections are present, and that they say what is intended.

Step Three:

Check for all non-text parts –

1. Check for proper format and layout:

– margins

– consistent spacing and headings

– placement of dates, names, addresses, and other parts of the communication

2. Check for correct spelling of names and places.

3. Check accuracy of dates, addresses, and numbers.

Step Four:

Check the text, looking for errors in these areas. Use a card or ruler to slow yourself down.

1. Check for typographical errors by reading aloud, saying each syllable of each word carefully. Look for omissions of parts of words.

2. Check for spelling errors.

3. Check for obvious grammatical mistakes, capitalization, and punctuation.

Step Five:

Read the communication backwards from bottom to top, and from right to left in order to pick up any typographical mistakes you may have missed.

Step Six:

Ask someone else to do a final check if it has to be perfect.

Scanning Patterns

The purpose of scanning patterns is to provide ways to find mistakes without reading for meaning. When proofreaders try to find errors while reading complete, logical sentences, they can miss mistakes because they get caught up in the meaning. Each scanning pattern is helpful in finding certain kinds of errors; choose the best pattern for the kind of text you are proofreading.

Block Scanning

This method of scanning focuses on essential information.

1. Accuracy of numbers, dates, amounts of money, addresses

2. Correct spelling of names and places

3. Correct capitalization of names and places

Using this method, proofreaders are not looking and sentence structure, punctuation, or other grammatical skills. With this pattern, they can scan sections of print for critical information.

Column Scanning

This pattern is useful when proofreading columns of information. Column scanning is also used to proofread text by dividing the text into several columns.

To apply this pattern, direct the eyes straight down a column of print.

Fixation Scanning

Fixation scanning allows you to proofread groups of words, but without getting caught up in the meaning of sentences. This pattern is particularly helpful in finding doubly-typed words, by looking at the end of one line of text and the beginning of the next.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *