A procurement manager from Washington, D.C., asked for ways to avoid silly errors caused by too little time to proofread and too much reliance on the grammar and spelling checker. I am happy to share my strategies:
- Rethink your attitude toward proofreading. Proofreading is not a luxury. It's as essential as bread and water. The 45 seconds it may take to carefully proofread an email can save hours of resending messages, clarifying, and getting over embarrassment. The manager who wrote to a new employee "Please bare with me while I learn the ropes" probably still shudders when he thinks of it.
- Proofread aloud, reading every word. Aloud may mean just whispering to yourself, but do voice each word. Doing so will help you find errors as well as sentences that don't make perfect sense.
- When you make a change while proofreading, proofread the changed paragraph or sentence again. Frequently edits are the cause of additional errors. For example, if you change "Thanks you for the gift" to "Thank for the gift," you have a new error.
- Look closely for typical errors. The most common error is giving the wrong date or matching the date with the wrong day of the week. Another common one is you for your. Another is missing words, and missing punctuation at the end of the sentence. If you frequently type it's for its, look for that error. (It's must mean "it is." It's has no other correct meaning.)
- Save any important email in your drafts folder, and then come back to it a few minutes later. Just a few minutes away from the message will help you spot errors.
- Before clicking Send, check the "To" line and your greeting. Be sure you have written to the correct Christie, and be sure you have not spelled her name Christi or Cristie or Kristie, especially if that is your sister's name.
For other ideas on proofreading, please check my proofreading posts here.
Do you have suggestions for avoiding silly errors in email? Please share your tips.