Proofreeding is SO boring
Don't you just hate it?
Several years ago, I produced the very first Copywriter Pro leaflet. The design was great - thank you Mark Coster from Pixooma. The print quality was the best (fine work, The Braunston Family from Braunston Print). OK - enough plugs for these wonderful people. What about the copy? Well, it was, of course, almost perfection itself! Almost - but not quite ...
Porky gave it the OK
The content was, of course, simply stunning! The words were clear, concise and compelling. And there wasn’t a single spelling, grammar or punctuation mistake. How could there be? After all, it was written by the Copywriter King! I’d checked the copy myself at least three times. Ali, my wife, checked it. Mark Coster checked it. Kath Braunston checked it. Malcolm from next door, who supplies us regularly with fresh vegetables, checked it. Malcolm’s dog, Porky, checked it.
In the ensuing months, I distributed hundreds of these leaflets – at exhibitions, networking events, in local magazines. I was delighted with the impact. People loved it.
Then, just a few weeks ago, at a networking meeting, a young man approached me most politely, “I like your leaflet. It looks great. But you do know there’s a full-stop missing?”
But it happens … to all of us. Even to cocky copywriters.
Backwards is the new forward
There’s no 100 per cent, copper-bottomed, sure-fire way to perfect the art of proofreading. But here are a few tips to give yourself at least a sporting chance.
- Do nothing. At least for 24 hours. Leave your words to cool down. Give your brain a chance to move to pastures new.
- Print out your document. I know, it’s not always practical. But focused reading from the printed page is far more effective than on-screen scanning.
- Read aloud. If you’re in a busy office, you might feel self-conscious, so take your document out of the office. Find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. (No, possibly not the powder room. You might get funny looks when you re-emerge).
- Start with the very last sentence. Read it aloud. Then the next-to-last. And so-on. This will prevent your brain from anticipating what comes next and skimming over mistakes.
- Sign up for Grammarly - a handy, free, but not fool-proof application.
- Use Microsoft Office's Spellcheck. It’s a great ‘aid’. But you can never trust it 100%. Here’s a little poem that explains why -
ODE TO THE SPELL-CHECKER
Eye have a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight 4 it 2 say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite.
Its rare lea ever wrong.
I have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased to no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer told me sew!
The poem doesn't contain a single spelling mistake - according to Spellcheck!