Recently, I was speaking with a new client who had just spent 43 hours writing her federal résumé and SES narratives. She said after that long she felt like she was writing the same thing over and over, knew there were typos and grammar errors, and just could not fathom reading them for at least a week and wanted a fresh set of eyes for editing and story flow. She said her eyes were bloodshot, burning, and crossed. [TIP: Always start SES narratives well in advance (months even) of the deadline.] She asked if proofreading came with my services because she did not want to have any mistakes.
Many years ago, I learned the skill of scientific and technical document processing and proofreading while working with some of the best scientific/technical editors I have ever known. Back then, I thought they were being mighty picky and difficult, but soon learned to value their style, work ethic, and talent—and I was very lucky to have a couple of them take me under their wing and teach me. (It would not have been good to have a step left out when writing safety manuals for nuclear reactor operations. I realize that is extreme.) To this day, I still enjoy proofreading—with many different hats on.
No one is perfect, especially in this world where there is a constant flow of electronic communications, people generally do not take the time to read for typos if the meaning is not changed. However, when it comes to your career communications, be sure they are void of typos; use a modern format, as well as content that tells your story and demonstrates your value. This will ensure a quality submission!
Here are some proofreading tips:
- Have someone read the document that is not connected to it and may not even have a clue to the lingo.
- When that is not possible, believe it or not, one of my personal favorites is to save the file as a text file. There is just something about plain text on the page that makes me find things out of place, including spacing issues, typos, inconsistencies, and even grammar errors. I know this will not work for everyone, but it does for me.
- You can also read the document from bottom to top, and backwards from the end.
- Let the document sit overnight and read again in the morning.
- Manually spell check it with your eyes, then use the word processing software to “manually” spell check.
- Do not depend on the software’s grammar spell check features.
- Globally search for common misspelled words such as manager, often keyed in as “manger.”
- Do you transpose “i” for “o” or some other combination that you catch “most” of the time? Search for that and see if you missed it.
- Read it out loud and silently.
- Use a ruler and read a line at a time.
- Read tables bottom to top.
- Print the file and read it on paper.
- Proof the body, then proof the headings. Often, headings have the most typos.
- Try not to proof under fluorescent lighting. The flicker makes your eyes blink more often and you most likely will lose your place and miss something.
- Read something else, then go back to it.
- Proof it more than once with a “different” hat on. This is my favorite. I proof for spelling and grammar, then formatting, then aesthetics, then from the reader’s perspective, then the headings, then numbers, then page numbers, then for consistency…and yes, sometimes I can proof in that mode wearing 2-3 hats at a time because I have just been conditioned to do that in my type of job. You can too. Make a mental note of each scenario.
- THEN, there is proofing/editing for content. Are the facts in order? Does the math add up? Are all the steps addressed? Do the figure numbers match the reference in the text? Are the illustrations in order? Are the acronyms spelled out at the first call out?
Moral of the story below: if you are typesetting the program for university graduates, it might just be a good idea for a professional proofreader to take a peek. 😉
If there are any typos in this post, and any of my others, please forgive me. They are just a gift to you from me, but with sincere apologies because I would be mortified. <smile>
What are your common mistakes?
(Mine is leaving a word out here and there because I speed read ahead and my mind will jump ahead of my fingers even though I type 90-100+ words per minute, most of us read much faster than we type.)
What are your proofreading tips?