Proof Reading Your Text
You can never be too thorough. Journalists are trained to check and double-check everything. Copy editors expect to find errors. This should be the way you work too.
- Check your copy—after you have finished your first draft—not during the writing process. However, if you suspect something may be not quite right, put a question mark beside it or in the margin to remind you to come back to it.
- Before editing and proof reading, leave your work for a few hours or even till the next day.
- You are more likely to spot mistakes if you print out your work. If drastic re-structuring is needed, you also have the luxury of viewing several pages simultaneously, rather than scrolling on screen.
- Reading and re-reading your own text can often trigger ‘word-blindness’. Because of over-familiarity, your eye accepts the error. If you do need to proof read on screen, enlarge the font. The change in appearance and larger type will help you to spot gaffs.
- Sub-editors and professional proof-readers expect to find trouble. You too should actively focus on looking for mistakes – which means you need to be more critical and alert than usual.
- Query or correct any suspected errors immediately you spot them.
- Once is not enough. After you have read your copy and you’re sure you’re happy with the words and the meaning, read it through again several times to check for each of the following: accuracy, clarity, omissions, grammar and punctuation, spelling and consistency. As an organisation you need to agree on acronyms, as well as spelling, abbreviations of commonly used words, then circulate them as your house style and stick to them.
- Make sure there are no misquoted facts or misspelled names. And make sure you can trust your source. If in doubt, check it out on a reputable internet site or pick up the phone.
- Watch for words that may take on a meaning far from what was intended. A local paper sub wrote the headline, “School dinners given the chop”. Whether it was an absent minded error or an intentional pun we will probably never know.
- When you are absolutely sure your text is 100 per cent accurate and professional, ask a friend or colleague to give it a final read-through just to be safe.