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Proofreading Slogan: Print Before Sending

I regularly receive emails that end with the slogan “Please consider the environment before printing this message.” Many people, including me, are concerned about wasting resources.

Yet I’ve found that it’s much more effective to proofread a document from a printed page than from a screen. When I proofread an important piece on the screen only, I often miss errors.

I recently updated a business writing course flyer because a class has evolved. The online class that used to be Email Intelligence is now How to Write Email That Gets Results. I proofread the revised flyer at least twice on the screen and was ready to upload it to my website. But a little voice told me to print the flyer and proofread it one more time–because it is so important that the flyer not contain mistakes.

I was shocked to find a bunch of mistakes when I reviewed the printed pages:

  1. Time: 10 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Pacific Time (It’s a 90-minute class plus Q&A, not 13+ hours.)
  2. Date: 3-16-1 (The final 1 should have been 11.)
  3. Target Audience: Anyone who wants to gets positive, consistent results with email.
  4. Get specific recommendations on how to gets results with your email.
  5. Register for the January 25 class today. (It was a March 16 class.)

All the errors involved text I had changed, of course. You know, those nasty gremlins that sneak into revised copy and hide there.

For another piece of writing I proofread on the screen, I found myself stuck with this error on a cover sheet on my way to a client meeting: February. 2, 2011.

Where did that erroneous period come from? Here’s where: Just before printing the document, I had decided to spell out February rather than use the abbrevation Feb.–with the period.

I am all for preserving natural resources and saving money. But before I send an important message into the world, I am going to print and proofread it.

What is your view?


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

12 comments on “Proofreading Slogan: Print Before Sending”

  • I have proofread extremely long documents online and feel confident about the results. The challenge lies in proofreading one’s own writing. And in that case, I am like you and proofread from a print copy as it provides me with a fresh perspective on my work.

  • And always REREAD any changes you’ve made, including the sentences before and after (easier said than done sometimes).

  • I take a red pen to my own work frequently! It’s the only way to ensure you don’t make little mistakes.

  • I agree with you, Lynn.

    For some reason, seeing the text in print changes my perspective and flushes out mistakes that I hadn’t caught while editing on the computer screen.

  • Bransom – I can’t figure out whether the typo in your recent post was intentional. In any case, it beautifully illustrates the problem of reading from the screen raised by Lynn.

  • I absolutely have to print for proofing. I don’t know if my baby boomer eyes are the culprit, but I am always sorry if I don’t.

    I also copy my blog posts into Word to proof before hitting “Send.” I am constantly amazed how many errors I miss. Even though the Word editing isn’t perfect, it also helps pick up errors.

  • I too, believe that proofreading on paper is a requirement when proofreading your own work or even the work of others that you have had to edit heavily.
    Like Cathy the eyes can be an issue, but one way to help that can be to make the text double spaced temporarily.

  • Like the rest, I agree. I used to work for an online-only magazine, and we simply had to print it all out. When we didn’t, the content suffered.

    (We used to make ourselves feel better by saying the draft was the only printed copy).

  • Thanks, everyone, for your input.

    Penny, your point about being successful proofreading others’ writing online makes sense.

    Val, I can’t believe how often a changed sentence creates trouble. Even something as small as changing “Thanks” to “Thank you” can leave us with “Thanks you”!

    Megan, the infamous red pen! People in my writing class often fear I will pull one out.

    Yoav, I appreciate your correct use of “flushes.” So often people use that word when they mean “fleshes.”

    Bransom, I agree. I always recommend reading aloud. I do it whispering at my desk.

    Paul, I enjoyed your appreciation of Bransom’s great illustration.

    Cathy, speaking of baby boomer eyes, I recommend changing the screen view to 150% or even more. Like you, I move my blog posts to Word and proofread them there before publishing them.

    MaryHazel, double spacing is an excellent idea.

    Jen, it’s funny to think of an online magazine being proofread in print. Your example shows how important the printing step is.

    Well, I hope I haven’t made any typos in this comment!

    Thanks for taking the time to share.


  • I agree–it’s much easier to see mistakes in the printed version. But today I was updating a marketing slick that I’d just created last week. It had gone through several layers of management reviews. I was given a printed “red-lined” version and asked to make the edits in an InDesign doc. I saw something else that might need to be changed, so I copied and pasted the text from InDesign into an email to ask my reviewer if he wanted me to change it. When I looked at the email,I saw another error that about 7 people had missed–mulitple instead of multiple! Quite often, I copy and paste text into an email or a Notepad document, and then the error pops out at me. Saves a tree or two that way.

  • Karla, what an example! All those people saw mulitple and did not catch it.

    From what you said, I am guessing InDesign does not have a grammar and spelling checker. If it doesn’t, that would be another good reason to copy a piece into an email.

    Thanks for telling your story.


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