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These 10 top tips for proof-reading may be simple – but they will make a difference (10 Sep 18)

Have you noticed how even tiny things can make big differences when it comes to communications?

Some examples are hilarious. A little slip of the finger causes public services to become pubic services. And you only hear about it when a senior manager phones to let you know – or, even worse, it gets into the local press

Embarrassing, right? But not as expensive as the time when a misplaced decimal point changed £1.07 million to £10.7 million in a financial contract.

Not all mistakes have such consequences.

But they do point up something very simple. Attention to detail in written material is vital. And that starts with proper proof-reading.

It doesn’t take a lot of time. And it’s not expensive. But it makes the difference between you looking amateur – and professional.

The tips that follow are almost embarrassingly simple. But then, so are some of the mistakes you see.


Print out the document in one and a half or double spacing

Have the computer file(s) available if possible

Spell check, but …
· First make sure the document is written in UK (ie not US) English
· Don’t rely on it – the spell checker will only pick up words that are not in its dictionary (ie it won’t pick up an incorrectly used word)

If the text is for publication, do a global ‘search and replace’ for:
· Double spaces (replace with single spaces)
· Dashes (-) which should be en-dashes (–)

You can search a number of Word or PDF documents at once

Consistency is important

Check for consistency in, for example:
· Hyphenation (eg ‘email’ or ‘e-mail’; ‘well-being’ or ‘wellbeing’; ‘sub-committee’ or ‘subcommittee’)
· Capitalisation (eg, ‘internet’ or ‘Internet’; ‘government’ or ‘Government’)
· Spelling (eg, ‘acknowledgment’ or ‘acknowledgement’; ‘judgment’ or ‘judgement’)
· Punctuation (eg, ‘ie’ or ‘i.e.’; ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mr’; ‘St.’ or ‘St’)
· Bullet list style (capitalisation and punctuation)
· Use of figures (eg ‘ten or 10’, ‘one million or 1 million’, 1000 or 1,000)
· Style for references

Follow the house style, if there is one. If you don’t have a house style to follow make up your own – and here’s how to do so:

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