We’ve all done it, made a careless mistake, and called it a typo. Here’s how to avoid those mistakes:
- Outline your message. Most people just sit down at their desk and start to write. Outline your message first. An outline is no more than a simple list of the items you need to convey and the order in which they should appear. Outlining your message helps to ensure that no important facts are missed and that the information is presented in a logical order, so that your audience can easily understand your entire message.
- Never be happy with your first draft. Edit your document at least once. It is often beneficial to walk away from a document (overnight if you have the time) before editing your document. This gives your head a chance to clear and allows you to review your writing a little more objectively.
- Before working on your final draft, consider giving your document to someone who is in your target audience — an employee, stockholder or associate — to get their reaction. Don’t defend your document against any comment; remember that you won’t be there to explain your writing to every reader.
- Then, let someone else proofread your document. The fact is you probably can’t proofread your own writing. The reason is simple enough: you know what you meant to convey and will likely gloss over mistakes as you replay your message in your mind as you read.
- Don’t rely on spell-checking programs. Their usefulness is limited to pointing out unrecognized words, but won’t save you from missing their/there, capital/capitol, you/your/you’re and similar common errors.
- When proofing your own document, consider starting at the end and working backwards — or reading the entire document upside down. Tactics such as these force you to concentrate on each word, rather on the flow of the document.
- When proofing for consistency, review your entire document for one element at a time. For example, look only at your bullet points — Are they consistent in style, size and indentation? Then, look only at your headings and subheads — Are they all the same size and typeface? Working your way through the document in this manner can help ensure a professional look to your writing.
- Finally, when proofreading, pay special attention to page references, phone numbers, addresses and names. Most proofreaders gloss over this information when reading.