Tips for proof-reading your work

Imagine the scene: you’ve spent days working on a client’s brochure and triple checked the copy for mistakes before sending it to the printers… Then, when you finally see it in print, you notice there’s a word missing on page one, reducing your opening gambit to nonsense.

“Nooooooooo” you cry, before curling up in the foetal position under your desk.

OK, so you probably wouldn’t have done the second thing. But this is the kind of situation that would make any copywriter wake up in the night screaming.

After all, you’ve spent hours researching the subject, planning the sales pitch, emphasising the benefits, and crafting a dynamic call to action. But alas, you’ve also made a pitiful schoolboy error that makes both you and your client look like idiots.

“How could this have happened?  Sack the proof-reader,” you exclaim. Except you ARE the proof-reader… and there’s no hiding from your mistake…

Proof-reading your own work can be a dangerous game. That’s because sometimes your brain only reads what it expects to read instead of what’s there on the page. You could sit up all night re-reading the same piece of work, but nothing will pick up minor errors better than a fresh pair of eyes.

So, no matter how competent you are at writing, always try to get someone else to read your work before you sign it off. He or she may well spot the tiny mistakes that you’ve been glossing over time and again.

If this really isn’t possible, then there are some measures you can take to help avoid mistakes making it into your final document. For example, reading your work off paper is far less tiring than reading from a screen, making you less likely to miss mistakes.

Also, try to read each word in isolation like a young child might. This will help you read what’s there instead of what you might expect to read. And finally, make sure you leave a decent time-gap between writing and proof-reading to gain the benefit of fresh eyes.