A structure for proofreadingA Method to the Madness of Proofreading

A few years ago, a billboard campaign for a Cincinnati phone company a few years ago proclaimed, "Its for you" instead of "It's" for you. The newspapers and the grammarians flipped out, much to the embarrassment of the agency and its client. Ouch. And someone on the board or a customer always lets you know about a typo, usually with a snarky note or tweet. When mistakes happen in financial and regulatory copy, you may create a liability to your company. We hope you have resources, including a professional proofreader, to help out.

No matter what method you use for proofreading – whether you work solo or read back and forth with a colleague – proofing saps your attention. We address this by creating a hierarchy for proofing and work our way down the tree.

At the very top are headlines, subheads, and captions. They're the most likely to be read in our Scan-O-Matic world. Then double-check the spelling and titles of everyone mentioned in your copy. Nobody likes to see their name misspelled.

Moving down, consider copy that's critical, like numbers for a financial report or anything related to regulatory.

Finally, we're ready to tackle the body copy. Pay particular attention to the first paragraph, which is the most read. A goof here could derail the reader and put up a big stop sign.

And next to your coffee, put the AP Manual of Style and the Chicago Style Manual within easy reach. They're the best way to resolve common grammatical and style questions. For example, is it 5 o'clock in the evening, 5 p.m., or 5 pm?

Getting the little things right is crucial for your brand to project consistency and competence.

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