Friday, July 6, 2007

Proofreading

Editing documents is my business, so I have a particular routine down. First, I write the article, often stream of conscious, not worrying about spelling (I use auto correct for the simple errors). Then, on screen, I go back over the document a few times to ensure I've caught the most flagrant errors.
.
Next, I print, always double spaced. Then I edit, usually away from my desk, in another room, away from where I created the document, normally using my German shepherd as a footstool. I use a red Precise Rolling Ball red pen, which I buy in bulk. I use standard editing marks, which you can find here.
.
Then, I return to the computer and make changes, reread on line again, then print. I often print and edit an article four or five or six or more times before I'm ready to consider it a finished product. In the interest of recycling, for new rough drafts I reuse paper.
.
Here's the most important tip of all. If your document is important (and I maintain every one is except the most mundane e-mail to a pal), then lay the document aside overnight and reread it the next morning with a fresh eye. Here is my guarantee--if you do this, your communications will improve a great deal.
.
The eye finds many, many errors more errors when you print your document rather than if you edit on-line.
.
My favorite spell check error occurred when I was a public sector risk manager. I was on the board of PRIMA-AZ Chapter, and the President that year was the former State of Arizona's Attorney General, and a wonderful, high-profile woman. As president, it was her role to put out the Chapter's newsletter. She apparently relied a little too heavily on spell check, because when I read the newsletter after it arrived in the mail, on the front page in big letters was the word "Public" spelled without the letter 'l'.
.
She had a great sense of decorum, but a better sense of humor, so I lost not one minute calling her to crow about her error. There was dead silence on the phone for a moment, then she said flatly, "I'm blaming YOU!"
.
We both laughed and learned how to take "public" without the 'l' out of our spellchecks. Come back soon and I'll tell you how to remove words from your on-line dictionary. It may save you some embarrassment.
P.S. One of my sharp-eyed friends just emailed me to point out a typo, which I fixed. That shows Stillman's comment is true: someone else needs to proof your document, too!

2 comments:

Stillman said...

I've found it's always best to have another person edit what I write. Often times, they can see what’s glaringly obvious, but invisible to me.

Barbara said...

thanks for your great work and writing skills. And thanks Stillman for this wonderful piece of advice.