How to Effectively Improve the Quality of Your Written Work
By DALE JACKSON
Professional looking documentation and communications play a significant role in generating a positive impression of a company. Accurate and error-free writing skills not only help in improving the credibility of an employee, they also affect an organisation’s reputation. Documents containing errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling create a sloppy impression and can be damaging to an organisation. Hence, proofreading is an essential skill that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Proofreading improves the quality of written matter prepared by company employees. Anyone who participates in writing activities of any kind can benefit from proofreading — be it presentations, newsletters, memos or web content.
Here are some essential proofreading tips to help companies create better quality documents.
Proofread without distractions
Do not attempt to proofread when you are distracted or in a hurry. Unless you concentrate on the task, it is impossible to pick up all the errors in a document.
Proper proofreading requires focus.
Proofread after a break
Resist the temptation to proofread your work as soon as you create it. It is easy to overlook errors when you do so. Return to the document after a short break. Mistakes are easier to spot when you look at it with fresh eyes.
Recognise the limitations of spell check software
Although spell checkers help with correcting misspelt words, they won’t pick up all mistakes. Even when using a spell checker, scrutinise your copy for the following potential errors:
- homonyms — words that have the same pronunciation, but different meanings. For example, pair/pear.
- reversed letters that change the meaning of a word. For example, form/from.
- inconsistencies — words or numbers that can be displayed in different ways should be employed in a consistent form throughout the document. For example, 1,000/1000, co-operative/cooperative.
- closing inverted commas and brackets — make sure that you haven’t missed either part of the pair.
- country-specific language usage — use British English terms and spellings when the target audience is in Europe, Australia or Asia. American English usage should be employed for the rest of the world. For example, colour/color.
Revise separately for different errors
Rather than performing a single check to pick all errors, focus on just one factor at a time. Perform methodical checks for misspelt words, punctuation errors, formatting errors and consistency of usage. Proofreaders should also pay attention to headings, footnotes, tables and page numbers.
Divide the document into sections and proofread each section separately. After every round of revision, proofread the corrected section again. Perform one last check of the entire document. This may help you spot mistakes that were missed the first time.
It is easier to spot errors in a document when it is checked by more than one person. Where important documents are concerned, consider hiring a professional proofreader. They are adept at spotting and correcting errors, leaving no margin for error.
Remember that proofreading is not a skill that can be developed overnight. Nevertheless, it is a productive pursuit. Proofreading not only allows us to spot errors in our work, it also enhances our use of language.