Tips for Proofreading Emails Like a Pro

This month's Better Writing at Work e-newsletter features the article "10 Tips for Proofreading Your Emails." 

Here are three of my favorite tips, followed by two that readers sent me:

1. Double-check the spelling of names. Check the signature block of any message you are replying to, to be sure you are writing to Kathryn rather than Katherine, Catharine, or Kathy. Also, be careful of organization names and abbreviations. The U.S. Coast Guard is not USGC. The Canadian Broadcasting Company is not CCB.

2. Check dates, times, and day-date combinations. Open your calendar to be sure May 1 is a Friday (it's not). Also, check dates and times carefully before sending a meeting request, and remember that Outlook adjusts meeting times for the time zones of your recipients.

3. Test every hyperlink. Be sure it is live and accurate. Remember that your grammar and spelling checker will not flag a typo in a URL. Also, be sure the email describes the link accurately. For example, www.redcross.org does not link to a specific Red Cross endeavor, so an email should not suggest that it does.

4. Read your paragraphs backwards, that is, read the sentence at the end of the paragraph first, then the one above, and so on. This approach allows you to disassociate what you intended to write from what is actually there and to catch incomplete or incoherent sentences that have sneaked into revisions. (This tip came from Rachel Petrich of Port of Seattle.) 

5. Be sure you have indicated the time zone of a meeting or a phone call when your reader is in another time zone. That way, when you write, “I will call you at 11 a.m.,” there is no confusion about whether you mean 11 a.m. Pacific Time or 11 a.m. Eastern Time. (This tip came from Tim Jones of NetSpeed Learning Solutions as an add-on to Tip 2 above.) 

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2017 UPDATE: I am excited to offer you a new course, Proofread Like a Pro. It's filled with proofreading tips, exercises, and insights. 

Lynn
Syntax Training

12 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Lynn….very nice tips and very important. Allow me to add a few please –
    1) I insert the sender’s email id only after completing the email and double checking it. This helps in avoiding the risk of sending it in a hurry and then realizing that certain words or points could have been been drafted in a different way or may be deleted.
    2) Even while replying, I delete the ids and then reply (of course not applicable for routine replies…)

    Thanks and regards,
    Sanjay I – Pune,India

  2. Thanks a lot. Very good points. For the sake of completion, here is two more:
    1) Double check the attachments to make sure you have attached them correctly and nothing is left out.
    2) Use the delay feature for sending emails, so you could come back if anything was forgotten. This feature is available in GMail and email applications like Outlook.

  3. Lynn, that is a great list for editing. I may have to print it out and tape it to my monitor.

    My tip may sound weird but it works for me. I try to read each email (or at least business emails) three times before sending. This helps me catch typos and correct the tone of the email.

    I also try to imagine myself as the person receiving the email. This helps me remove vague statements and inappropriate jargon.

    Lisa

  4. Hi, everyone. I am glad you like these tips. I hope you are also subscribers to “Better Writing at Work” so you can read the full list. If not, subscribe at http://www.syntaxtraining.com/signup.html

    Sanjay, your suggestions are excellent. Thank you!

    Ehsan, thank you for mentioning attachments. That tip is very important. I also like the idea of the delay, although I have not used it myself.

    Lisa, I agree: three times is the charm. It’s so important to proofread again, especially after making edits. The tiny edits, such as inserting a word that needs “an” before it instead of “a,” are the errors a third reading can catch.

    Phil, I am glad you like Rachel’s idea. I am going to try it too.

    Ruth, you are welcome!

    Lynn

  5. Thanks for the great tips, Lynn. I teach a Business Communications course for community college students and always share your site in class. I suggest they read your posts regularly to pick up tips like the ones you’ve shared here.

  6. For important emails, I also use Sanjay’s trick: I add the recipient’s email address at the last minute, when I am sure the rest is okay. If I am replying, I cut the recipient’s address out of the “To:” line and temporarily paste it at the top of the email text until the email and attachments are ready to go.

    George

  7. Another way to catch errors is to change how the text looks. Use a different font (and/or colour) or cut and paste what you’ve written into a Word document and read it again. Of course, the surefire way of spotting an error is to hit ‘Send’. 😉

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