Have you ever read the saying: “I do my best proofreading after I press the send button”. Know the feeling? It is difficult to spot errors in your own writing. You are so close to the work that your brain will read what it thinks is on the page, rather than what is written. It’s always wise to have any important document or piece of writing reviewed by a second pair of eyes, preferably those of an experienced qualified editor and proofreader. However, there are a few things that you can do yourself if time or money is short.
Bigger is better
Make it bigger – I use a large screen, in fact, my set-up is two screens so that I can have an email or google tab open whilst working. It’s also great when cross-checking an original against an amended PDF. On the main screen I usually increase the size of a document up to as least 140% but often 180% if possible. It is much easier to edit and proofread on larger text.
Check the proofing language
Check the default language of the document. Give yourself a head start by ensuring that it is set to the language you want to write in. It’s not uncommon for me to receive a document that should be written in British English that is set in American (US) English, or the writer’s own native language. You can quickly check this at the bottom left hand corner of the page and change it to English (United Kingdom) from the drop down menu on the ribbon.
Use the spell check feature, but don’t rely on it alone
Before you start, run the grammar and spelling check that’s built-in to Word. This should pick up any obvious errors, but remember it won’t pick up instances where the word order is the wrong way round. Examples of this are common words like form and from, casual and causal and trial and trail.
Find is your friend
The ‘find’ function is your friend – I could write a whole blog post on the possible uses of the ‘find or ‘find and replace’ function. For example, it can be used to find extra spaces between words and at the end of sentences, or for consistency in words where there are variant spellings like –ise/ –ize endings.
Check spelling of abbreviations, special words and names
If your document contains lots of abbreviations you might find that occasionally you have typed the letters in the wrong order. You might not always spot this as you check through the document, so run a search for any variations using the find function mentioned above. For example, if you are writing about the OECD, then check for OCED and OEDC.
Decide on your style and layout from the outset and stick with it – Word can help you with this, especially on large documents such as theses, using the ‘Styles’ functions. For smaller documents remember to keep the font type, font size, line and paragraph spacing consistent. It can be difficult when you have written the text over a period of time or have amalgamated a number of pieces of writing into one document.
Show and hide
Use the show/hide button called a Pilcrow – Like many editors, I often work on a document with this function active. As I work through the text I can spot and rectify things like the extra spaces between words, or where paragraph indents have been made using the space bar rather than the tab key.
Finally, provided your schedule allows take your time. If you write your essay and read it through immediately afterwards the work will be so familiar to you that you will be unlikely to spot any errors.