Proofreading your work is one of the most important steps whether you’re writing a business letter, a blog post, or even a simple email. What you write – and how you write it – says a lot about who you are. Sloppy spelling mistakes and awkward grammar can be a huge turnoff for potential customers. It can also make it more difficult for Google to find you if those words are spelled incorrectly.

But not to fear! Here are 9 ingenious ways you can improve your proofreading and catch those mistakes:

  • Focus on one word at a time
  • Read sentences backwards
  • Add indents to your Word or Google Docs document
  • Tune into multiple spellings – AND PICK ONE!
  • Know your regular mistakes
  • Check your phone number
  • Microsoft Word isn’t always right
  • When in doubt, Google it!
  • Know your limitations

1. Focus on One Word at a Time

When you read your own work, your brain automatically skips ahead because it remembers what you wrote. However, your brain may not realize you made a mistake – and you could be skipping over the same misspelled word without even realizing it! Try to focus on one word at a time, analyzing it, and making sure it’s correct. (We’ll give you shortcuts for this in points 2 & 3, below.)

2. Read Sentences Backwards

This is an old editor’s trick to help you focus on one word at a time. When you read sentences backwards, your brain can’t skip ahead, so it’s easier to see mistakes. However, this is only useful for individual words, so don’t do ALL your proofreading backwards. Read forwards as well so that you are more likely to catch things like subject/verb agreement, errors in clauses, etc.

3. Add Indents

Here’s another way to help trick your brain. Add indents to your Word or Google Docs document. It may not seem like much, but this little shift in where the text lands on the page tends to help you focus more on each individual word. We don’t pretend to know the science behind it – maybe it’s got something to do with literally putting the text “off-kilter” – but it works.

4. Tune into Multiple Spellings – AND PICK ONE!

There are many words that have different accepted spellings. For example, “health care” and “healthcare” both mean the same thing, but some spell it as one word and some as two. If your organization has a spelling and grammar guide, check to see what their preferred spelling is. (You can also search the website to see what is most commonly used.) If there isn’t a preferred way to spell it, then choose either one, but make sure you use the same spelling throughout your text for consistency.

5. Know Your Regular Mistakes

Many of us have blind spots in grammar. Some of the most common mistakes are there/their/they’re, your vs. you’re, and “a lot.” Which do you regularly spell the wrong way? It’s good practice to identify where your blind spots are, and take extra-special care when proofreading these words to ensure you’re using the right spelling. (Here are 30 common errors:

6. Check Your Phone Number

One of the most common mistakes in advertising is the phone number. It’s not uncommon for the ad copy to be read dozens of times, but the phone number never looked at. Double-check this and other “obvious” information such as email addresses, web addresses, dates, your slogan, and headlines.

7. Microsoft Word Isn’t Always Right

Microsoft Word’s spellcheck is notorious for being wrong on a regular basis. If Word is telling you something is spelled incorrectly and you think it’s right, it’s worth double-checking the spelling elsewhere. (Also, if you’re running into a situation such as EVERY word having a squiggly line underneath, make sure your Language settings are correct.)

8. When in Doubt, Google It!

Google is a useful search tool, which means it can also be a useful spellchecking tool, too. You may find a situation like in number 4 (above) where you have multiple spellings for one word. That’s okay. First, find out why there are different spellings. For example, the U.S. spelling of “defense” is different from the U.K. and Canadian spelling of “defence.” In that case, the choice is easy. If it’s a word like “health care/healthcare” then you’ll have to decide which spelling is best for you.

9. Know Your Limitations

Everybody, even professional writers, benefit from getting someone to proofread their work:

  • It gives you a fresh set of eyes to see things you might miss
  • It helps if you do not have strong spelling or grammatical skills

If you fall into the last example, that’s okay. You’re probably a whiz at numbers or something else that we’d be insanely jealous about. Everyone has their own strengths.

Our strength happens to be grammar. That’s why so many of our clients turn to Elite Office Solutions for proofreading and editing. We can quickly review and edit your writing to ensure you get it write right.

Contact Elite for Professional Proofreading and Editing Services

Contact us for more information about Elite’s proofreading and editing services.