“The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning-bug & the lightning.” – Mark Twain
Twain himself had little patience for such errors. “In the first place God made idiots,” he once wrote. “This was for practice. Then he made proofreaders.” There’s no foolproof formula for perfect proofreading every time. As Twain realized, it’s just too tempting to see what we meant to write rather than the words that actually appear on the page or screen.
Using spellcheck on your documents will only get you so far. What about missing or repeated words? What about words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings (e.g., “to” and “two)? What about duplicate paragraphs? What about matching the copy in the layout to the original document to make sure everything is there and correct (particularly important in annual reports—it’s very expensive to reprint an annual report just because of a typo!)?
Proofreading is a slow and methodical search for misspellings, typographical mistakes, and omitted words or word endings. Spotting such errors in your own work can be difficult because you may read what you intended to write, not what is actually on the page. To overcome this tendency, try proofreading out loud, articulating each word as it is actually written. You might also try proofreading your sentences in reverse, a strategy that takes you away from the meanings you intended and forces you to think about small surface features instead.
Or … hire a professional! Need help? Give us a call!