Make No Mistake – Proofreading Pays.

Foul-ups, slips and blunders may make for entertaining reality TV shows, but they’re daggers in the hearts of companies trying to preserve thin profit margins and professional reputations.

Based on a typical net profit of 5 percent, a company would have to generate $200,000 in sales to make up for a $10,000 loss as a result of a proofreading mistake reprint. That goes beyond eating the cost of an error. It’s more like choking to death on it.

Summoning the timeless good sense of applying an ounce of prevention to avoid piling on a pound of cure, here are seven ways to keep your proofreading at peak profit and image-protecting efficiency.

Start with a spellchecker. The spellchecker feature in most word processing programs can help catch repeated words, reversed letters, and many common errors. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a good place to begin.

Trust no word. Slowly and carefully read each word of text, each sentence, and each paragraph. Quick proofreading is poor proofreading, so give yourself ample time, concentrate fully, and take nothing for granted.

Look for one type of problem at a time. With longer text, give it several read-throughs, separating what you look for each time. Make your first pass with a focus on sentence structures, then word choice, then spelling, and finally punctuation. It’s a layered approach that gives every element equal scrutiny.

Check format last. Every document has a format, whether it’s paragraph spacing, text wrap, indentations, bulleted lists or subhead style. Leave this for the end so that other edits and changes don’t create a moving target.

Review a hard copy. When practical, print out the text and review it line by line. Rereading things in a printed format can help catch errors that are missed on a screen. A hard copy is also useful for making notes with a red pen, crossing out excess verbiage, and changing vocabulary prior to implementing the corrections in an updated version.

Use standard proofreader marks. No need to reinvent the wheel – proofreading symbols have been developed over time for clarity and continuity. Distribute a proofreader marks reference chart and get everyone using them. If you proof online, establish standards for use of markup tools in programs like Adobe Acrobat.

Have a sign-off system. Any proofreading system is incomplete without accountability. Making everyone sign off on what they’ve just reviewed is essential to an effective process where people take responsibility. With digital proofs, proofreaders can add their initials and a date to a marked up file’s name, or notate their initials in-document.

Embrace these simple steps to better proofreading, and you’ll be sure to keep costly mistakes few and far between. Your professional reputation will sail along with less wear and tear, too.

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