Four Proofing Pointers for Producing Flawless Copy

Proofreading is an important element of success in the business world that’s often overlooked. Sending a proposal to a prospect that’s full of punctuation and grammatical errors for instance, could cost you the prospect’s business and potentially earn you a reputation of producing shoddy work. While proofreading can sometimes be a timely task due to length of copy, it’s necessary to produce top-notch work. Luckily, there are a number of shortcuts and tricks that will help you save time and energy when proofing a project. I’ve outlined four of them below.

1. Print it out.

Proofreading, proofing, writing, writing tips, proofing rules, proofreading tips, AP Style, AP, AP Style rules, AP Style guidelinesIt’s easier on the eyes to read a document on paper as opposed to reading it on a computer monitor. When proofing on paper:

  • Double space your text.  This makes it easier to catch errors, typos, etc. and gives you room to write notes and make edit marks above or below sentences.
  • Use a red pen or a pen of contrasting color to make mark-ups easier to see.
  • Break down the document.
  1. Read it through once looking only for typos, spelling errors, grammar, punctuation, etc.
  2. Read it through a second time focusing only on the content – does it flow, make sense, etc.
  • Read it backward. Since our minds usually correct errors as they make sense in a complete thought, reading it from the end to the beginning is a great way to catch typos, spelling errors, etc.
  • Always get a second set of eyes to proof.

2. Proofing from the screen.

Ctrl + F

On a PC, the CTRL + F function will allow you to search a document for specific words, names, punctuation marks, etc. For example, you can:

  • Search the entire document for proper names by typing in the name of a person or company to make sure it’s spelled correctly throughout the document.
  • Search for apostrophe marks to make sure you’re using possessives and contractions correctly. For example, years do not need apostrophes because they aren’t possessive of anything. Correct: 1980s. Incorrect: 1980’s.
  • Replace double spaces after sentences with only one space.

3. Spell check isn’t foolproof.

Spell check, spellcheck, proofing, proofreadingWhile spell check is a valuable tool, don’t become too dependent on it! Spell check doesn’t catch homophones, homonyms or frequently transposed words. So, you could use a word in the wrong context and spell check won’t flag it. Here are some examples:

  • Homophone: a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning: palate (the roof of your mouth/sense of taste), pallet (bed or type of shipping platform) and palette (set of colors).
  • Homonym: a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings: mouth (of a river) and mouth (of an animal).
  • Frequently transposed words: affect (most often used as a verb; means to influence) effect (most often used as a noun; a result).

4. AP Style is still the golden rule.

AP Style, AP, Associated Press, AP Style rules, AP Style guidelinesWe use AP Style at Marketing Works. As AP Style rules are constantly  changing, we set up an account at to ensure we’re informed of the most up-to-date revisions. Here’s a small sampling of some current AP Style guidelines:

  • “More than” is preferred with numbers; “over” refers to special elements (i.e., “The vendor had more than 30 apples.” “The vendor threw an apple over my head.”)
  • Write out numbers one through nine
  • Don’t use the % sign, write out the word “percent”
  • Make sure you’re using correct abbreviations. For example, AP Style doesn’t follow standard ZIP code abbreviations (i.e., Massachusetts ≠ MA’; Massachusetts = Mass.)

Want your organization’s communications to be spotless? Marketing Works has an eye for excellence. Contact us today!

Posted in
Scroll to Top