May 09

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You’re never above being proofread

It’s very tempting to think that you’ve been doing your job for a very long time and that you’ve earned enough seniority not to have anyone else look at your work.

It’s also tempting to think that short emails and one-page letters don’t matter that much, and that you can send them out without much checking.

Resist that temptation!  You’re never too old or too important to be proofread.

Really good proofreading is a rare skill (if you know someone who does it well, treasure them!).  If possible, get yourself a couple of proofreading buddies at work and get used to checking each other’s work.  The more familiar you are with each other’s writing style, the more useful comments you can make.

There are two parts to the task: proofreading for accuracy, and proofreading for sense.

Proofreading for accuracy

This includes checking for typos of course, but also things such as:

  • correct punctuation;
  • consistent capitalisation;
  • headings divorced from their text;
  • accurate quotations and references (if there are any).

Proofreading for sense

This is essentially checking that you’ve got your point across.  Does the document read well?  Does it make sense on the first reading?  There are various ways to do this sort of proofreading, such as:

  • Read it out loud.  Does it sound reasonable to your ears?  Is there a distracting rhythm as you read it?  Are there words which you would never use when speaking (eg. hereafter, theretofore, such [as a noun], etc)?
  • Find someone with a similar education level to the intended reader and have them proofread it.  Do they find it reasonably natural to read?  Is it too complex – or conversely, is it condescending?
  • Check the visuals.  Does the layout make sense?  Is the most important information easy to find?


Finally, don’t be offended by corrections.  Everybody makes errors or slips, and it doesn’t mean you’re less intelligent or senior.  And making the change will make you look better.


Permanent link to this article: http://wordsmadeclear.com/2012/05/09/youre-never-above-being-proofread/


  1. Laura Speirs

    I take it the extra full stop in ‘temptation! .You’re never’ was there as a test, or to prove the point.

    1. angela

      Thanks Laura! Point proved; error corrected.

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