Guest article by Barbara Brabec
Unless you’re supremely confident of your writing, editing, and proofreading abilities, you could probably use a second set of eyes from time to time to “eyeball your copy.”
If you’ve written and typed the words in a business document, brochure, catalog, news release, report, or book, you can’t do an effective job of editing and proofreading those words. Why? Because your mind knows what you meant to say, and when you read what you’ve written, your eyes will see only what your mind tells them to see.
Here are just some of the things you could miss when proofreading your own material, especially if you’re tired and overly stressed by a deadline you’re trying to meet:
Are you sure about your punctuation? Every little mark has a meaning of its own, and where you place (or forget to place) all those commas, apostrophes, hyphens, dashes, colons, semi-colons, question marks, exclamation points and quote marks can make a BIG difference in how people will respond to your message.
Are all words properly capitalized (or capitalized in error)? Properly italicized?
Are you using the right words? As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” While the right words in a brochure, advertisement, or news release can motivate someone to buy your product or service, the wrong words can just as easily turn them off. As any copywriter will tell you, some words have more sales power than others. Then there is the matter of choosing words that are grammatically correct, such as that/which; who/whom; further/farther; fewer/less; your/you’re and its/it’s. Many people will notice such errors and wonder about your professionalism.
Note: When English is not your first language, it’s very easy to use the wrong words here and there, and all the more important to have an experienced editor check your writing for errors.
Are all the words and letters you meant to include actually there? When you’re in a rush, it’s easy to drop a word, and almost impossible to see those omissions when you proofread your copy. A missing letter in a word can be just as bad.
Are your subjects and verbs in agreement?
Are all your sentences complete and properly ordered in paragraphs?
Is your document properly formatted for style, clarity, and maximum understanding? (Headings, subheads, indented sections, bulleted lists, sidebars, etc.)
NOTE: About the spell-check and grammar checker you may be using…
Remember that spell-check finds only misspelled words (according to its idea of what’s correct). First, your spell-check dictionary probably doesn’t include terms common to your particular industry or even your country. (For example, both Word and WordPerfect spell-checkers often suggest using British spelling instead of American.) More important, spell-check isn’t going to point out when you’ve used the wrong word due to a typo error. (Examples: an/and, not/now, the/them, to/too, if/of, etc.)
As for grammar checkers, while they’re better than nothing, you need a good understanding of grammar to use them because some of the suggestions they make are ridiculous.
About Barbara Brabec
Copyright 2006 Barbara Brabec. Used by permission. Barbara Brabec, author of several books on homebased business, offers writing and editing services to authors interested in self-publishing. Additional information will be found on her Website at BarbaraBrabec.com.