Proofreading Tips

Proof Reading for Legal SecretariesProofreading is the final, key, stage of writing.  You will have spent time planing, writing and re-writing your document so make sure you also invest he time in profreading.  A silly spelling eror or missing apostrophe could change the meaning of your message and it will definately give the wrong impression of you an you firm.  Use the ten tip’s blow to help you proof-read letters’, reports, documents and even emails to make sure you dont have the mistakes that youv’e noticed in this paragraph!!

1. Be methodical when proofreading.  When you finish a document, run a spell check, print it off and leave it for as long as possible before proofreading it.  This way, you have a greater chance of reading the document with “fresh eyes”.

2. Proofread from a hard copy, not just from the computer screen. and preferably in double spacing.   It’s one of the laws that we can read and read from the screen and not find any errors.  But when we print it, lo and behold, we’ve missed a typo or two!

3. Avoid distractions.  Try to proofread in a quiet environment, with no disturbances such as phone, conversation, background chatter and so on.

4. Use a coloured pen for alterations, never a pencil.  Also, try to encourage your managers or whoever marks up documents for you not to use a blunt 6B pencil.  This will help you get their amendments back to them more quickly.

5. Proofread for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time, and then take a few minutes to rest your eyes by doing another task which does not involve the computer screen or reading – perhaps making a phone call or doing some filing.  When proofreading long documents, read in stages to maintain concentration.

6. Read from the top.  Read everything and double-check dates, times, names and telephone numbers.  If cutting and pasting material into a document, be very careful that you have changed names and other details from the previous document as appropriate.  Remember to check formatting too, especially if you have imported an external document or have merged several documents.

7. Read aloud or at least move your lips whilst reading.  By forming or even saying the words, you will hear as well as see spelling mistakes, faulty sentence construction, bad grammar and poor punctuation.  It will also slow you down and therefore help you proofread more accurately.

8. Check all titles, headings and sub-headings.  Check numbering systems, tables, cross references, covers and spines, and that the contents/index pages agree with headings in documents.  Check that it conforms to your house style, if you have one.

9. Proofread a document at least three times, looking for different errors each time.  For example, the first time look for spelling, grammar and punctuation; the second time look for inconsistencies in style and formatting; and the third time see if it all makes sense.  Leave time between the three checks if possible – you will spot more mistakes each time you read it.

10. If possible, get somebody else to do a final proofread.  We can be blind to our own mistakes.