How to Proofread Documents

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When you write anything, the document you create represents you to your audience. Just as you check yourself in the mirror before going to an important meeting, you need to thoroughly proofread documents so you will make a good impression. Proofreading isn’t hard, but careful attention to detail is essential.

Things You'll Need

  • Hard copy of the document
  • Dictionary
  • Print a hard copy of the document. A print copy appears different than the same document displayed on your computer. There is a tendency for you to slide over text you’ve written and looked at repeatedly and this will cause you to miss errors. Using a hard copy helps you to take a fresh look at your writing.

  • Read the document word by word, looking for typographical errors and other mistakes. Try different strategies to help you spot errors. One tactic is to read each line backward (from right to left) because this helps you to look at each word carefully. Whenever possible, set a document aside for a day or two before you proofread it.

  • Keep a dictionary handy when you proofread documents. Spellcheckers are great tools but they can also be your worst enemy since they will ignore any sequence of letters that makes up a word whether it’s the right word or not. When you check spelling, use a dictionary and don’t assume you have the spelling right. Finally, check to make sure you have used words properly.

  • Evaluate the document overall for organization and content. Any text should have a clear organizational scheme that enables the reader to follow your ideas. Ask yourself if you’ve stayed on topic or included material that isn’t relevant. Be sure you’ve included all the information the reader will need. For example, if the document is a job description, check that all the qualifications are included. For persuasive documents, have you included the evidence needed to support your argument?

  • Eliminate extra words and simplify flowery or complicated phrasing. Unnecessary words, like off-topic paragraphs, simply waste your reader’s time and obscure what you are really trying to communicate. The same is true of overdone phrases or the use of “big words” when shorter ones will convey the same meaning.

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