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Eagle eye proofreading in 10 easy tricks

It’s not glamorous, but proofreading is an essential part of the creative process. Airtight proofing can help your message shine. While publishing content laden with mistakes reflects poorly on you, your company and your brand.

All copy editing should be completed before any design is done. And having your internal supervisors and/or stakeholders review a draft document before it goes into design saves valuable time and money down the road.

But proofreading after design is just as important, maybe even more so. It’s a chance to review the application of your words and catch any lingering mistakes.

How can you become a more effective proofreader? Here are 10 tips to sharpen your skills:

1. Don’t allow distractions.

Close your email and instant messaging to focus solely on the task at hand. Seek a quiet corner or create one by wearing headphones. Distractions can cause you to overlook errors, lose your place and wreck your train of thought.

 2. Know (and love) your stylebook.

Make sure to follow your company’s designated stylebook. The leading stylebooks are available online, so they are at your fingertips whenever and wherever you need them. Be aware if there is also a customized organizational style guide with frequently used industry terms, corporate terminology and exceptions to the rules.

 3. Look at the big picture.

Print or zoom out your PDF to view the project in its entirety and examine it holistically. Going through the details with a fine-tooth comb is a must, but so is reviewing from a high-level perspective. Taking a step back to look at the big picture allows you to see things differently. This is the best way to evaluate the overall presentation, flow and cohesiveness. It may even help you spot formatting errors like a pesky missing indentation.

4. Read closely for grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes.

Some errors are missed during copy editing and some are made during design. Review long or complicated pieces in multiple passes, looking for different types of mistakes and inconsistencies each time.

5. Check for accuracy.

Are the phone numbers, websites and addresses correct? Are your statistics accurate?

It’s not just about the words on the page. How they are presented can make or break your message.

6. Review design and formatting.

It’s not just about the words on the page. How they are presented can make or break your message. Does the hierarchy and flow of information read smoothly? Do the paragraph and page breaks work well? Does the photo complement the message?

7. Make a note if questions pop up, and move on.

Addressing questions later allows you to stay focused through proofing and then devote the necessary time to troubleshooting.

8. Check all links and landing pages for digital design.

There is nothing more frustrating to users than a link that doesn’t work. Don’t promise them something, pique their interest enough to click, and then deliver a terrible experience.

9. Have someone proof behind you.

It can be easy to overlook mistakes if you’re close to a project. A fresh set of eyes is always helpful.

10. Track edits in a PDF.

Use tools such as highlighting, comment bubbles and strikethrough. However you like to note corrections, make sure they can be easily viewed and understood by the person making the changes. In addition to being user-friendly, it provides a record of your edits. For digital projects, create a list of corrections that follows a logical order and is easy to read.

These tips are just the beginning of your quest for proofreading perfection. Find a process that works for you and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did.

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