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How To Proofread Text and Layout

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The grammar and spellchecker in some software catches only some mistakes. To catch other less obvious errors you need to visually proofread your document. Visual proofreading of text and layout occurs at many stages, from early drafts to prepress and press proofs of the final typeset document.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 30 mins or longer - Proofreading text and layout time varies by length and complexity of document

Here's How:

  1. Read before proofing.
    Read the entire document through once to get an overall feel for content and layout before you proofread for errors.

  2. Proofread text.
    Proofread the document checking for punctuation and spelling irregularities (including consistent use of alternate spellings based on any style guide used by the organization).

  3. Read aloud.
    Proofread the entire document, including headlines and other text by reading it aloud. If possible, have another person listen and read along while you read aloud. This is a good way to catch missing words or doubled words.

  4. Read backwards.
    Proofread headlines, subheads, decks, kickers, pull-quotes, and call-outs backwards focusing on the words instead of trying to read for comprehension.

  5. Doublecheck names.
    Check spelling of all names and company names.

  6. Doublecheck numbers.
    Check all numbers carefully. Call phone numbers to verify. If addition, subtraction, or other math operations appear in text, doublecheck the figures.

  7. Look for inconsistencies.
    Check for consistent use of small caps for abbreviations and acronyms as well as consistent use of italics (for book titles, foreign phrases, etc.).

  8. Proof graphics and captions.
    Check artwork and ensure that it is placed correctly. Proofread captions and look at artwork to ensure the correct captions are with each photo.

  9. Look at the fonts.
    Check for changes in fonts within text and consistent font usage for headlines and captions.

  10. Look at spacing.
    Check for consistent spacing between elements such as headlines and body copy or gutters between columns of text.

  11. Look for trapped white space.
    In justified text, especially, look for rivers of white space and awkward hyphenation.

  12. Work from beginning to end.
    When making corrections to text that includes changing line endings (tracking, font size changes, etc.) start at the beginning of the document and work towards the end.

  13. Have a proofreading partner.
    If possible, have another person proofread or assist you when you proofread your own work.

Tips:

  1. Proof from a printed source.
    It is best to print your document and proofread a hard copy rather than relying on the on-screen representation, even when proofreading Web pages.

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