1. Don’t check a job as though you’re read­ing the news­pa­per. You need to read slower than nor­mal to notice, not just mis­spelt words, but irreg­u­lar word space, full stops and com­mas. The smaller the type, the more care­ful you have to be. Con­densed type is always a challenge.

2. Are all the var­i­ous kinds of head­ings con­sis­tent? Are these the same all the way through your doc­u­ment? Is the space between them the same? Do they employ log­i­cal ele­ments of impor­tance, for exam­ple are your main head­ings larger and/or bolder than your sub­head­ings? Always avoid head­ings at the bot­tom of a page.

3. Is your spac­ing con­stant? Is the space between para­graphs and lines (the lead­ing) the same through­out? Is there a stan­dard spac­ing before and after bul­let points, num­bered items and other features?

4. Is there uni­for­mity of cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion? Ini­tial cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion should be used spar­ingly and for proper nouns only – have you noted the words that are all lower case and oth­er­wise? They should be con­stant all the way through the text. Depend­ing on the style, some words may have ini­tial cap­i­tals when they are head­ings but be all lower case in the text. Also, make sure your con­tents page matches your doc­u­ment exactly for capitalisation.

5. Line breaks should look as reg­u­lar as pos­si­ble. In jus­ti­fied copy, words may be bro­ken to ensure word spac­ing is nei­ther too tight not too wide, there­fore pre­sent­ing a smooth spa­tial flow.
Unjus­ti­fied text (usu­ally ranged left)
should not have any word­breaks unless a line would be inor­di­nately short due to an excep­tion­ally long word.
The ends of unjus­ti­fied lines should appear roughly the same where pos­si­ble. Fre­quently, line breaks can be sub­jec­tive, but short lines of three words or fewer
should be avoided if the para­graph can eas­ily be rerun. A short line should
always be avoided at the top of a col­umn or page (a widow) where there is
con­tin­u­a­tion from a pre­vi­ous page.

6. Know your punc­tu­a­tion. A sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of authors and well– edu­cated peo­ple present copy for print with inad­e­quate punc­tu­a­tion. Too lit­tle punc­tu­a­tion can lead to ambi­gu­ity and the reader ‘los­ing the thread’ of what he/she is read­ing. Too much punc­tu­a­tion can baulk the reader and upset con­ti­nu­ity. We aim to sube­dit text for opti­mum read­ing flow and to ensure the writer’s
ideas and tone of voice are main­tained with­out unnec­es­sar­ily long sen­tences or
unwar­ranted punc­tu­a­tion. There are count­less text­books avail­able
for guid­ance on punc­tu­a­tion, but try and remem­ber the uses of semi­colons and
colons, which are often con­fused. The comma too is often mis­used, either left out when it should be inserted or put in unnec­es­sar­ily. Good punc­tu­a­tion should be almost
invis­i­ble; if it upsets the read­ing flow with­out rea­son or leads to con­fu­sion, it is not effec­tively doing its job.

7. Ensure con­sis­tent style of bul­leted items. One of the most awk­ward and sub­jec­tive aspects of proof­read­ing can be con­sis­tency and pre­sen­ta­tion of bul­leted items. Are they to be indented? Should they com­mence with a cap­i­tal let­ter? Is there to be a full stop or not at the end of each item? What­ever the style you adopt – stick to it. Always reread all bul­leted items to ensure con­sis­tency, and make sure each one makes sense when read as a con­tin­u­a­tion of the main line above.

8. Don’t just read it once. Unless you are really expe­ri­enced or you are to check
your work again at a later stage, it is always wise to reread your job if time allows, espe­cially if you have fallen into the trap of rush­ing. In any case, all work must be rechecked for line breaks, spa­tial aspects and other style points that can eas­ily be missed when the text is being read for sense and accuracy.

9. Read it out loud if it helps. Read­ing text out loud can help the under­stand­ing of a
job and can be help­ful for those not accus­tomed to check­ing the writ­ten word.

10. If you’re unsure – check it! When proof­read­ing, it is para­mount that you know your lim­i­ta­tions. If you are unsure if a word is spelt or used cor­rectly, always check it.
It is as impor­tant to real­ize what you don’t know as what you do know. Make sure you have, not just a good up-to-date dic­tio­nary at your dis­posal, but sev­eral good Eng­lish gram­mar books for reference.

Share