by Chris Swingle Farnum
How closely have you reviewed your LinkedIn profile and all of the words on your website? Do you proofread the proposals, documents and professional letters you write? Misspellings, typos and errors hurt your image. It's critical that you check your work or have someone reliable do so.
Check the basics: Electronic spell check (such as in Microsoft Word software) can help you spot some typos and misspellings. But you also need to slow down and closely proofread for wrong words, such as "form" instead of "from" and the sneaky "it's" when you mean "its."
Magnify it. On a screen, zoom in to make your text size larger so you can read it easily.
Print it. You will spot mistakes on paper that you don't see on the screen.
Read it aloud. Hearing your words is different from seeing them.
Listen to your gut. Don't ignore that feeling of hesitation about something. If you think to yourself, "That's how he spells his name, right?" imagine alarm bells clanging. Go check the spelling.
Check facts. If you're including a phone number, website or address, check it. Call the phone number. Copy and paste the URL into your web browser. (Don't type it in, since you need to check what's actually in your document rather than what you meant to type.) If you've got a list of five numbers and you say they add up to 2,873, check the math.
Be consistent. Your tone and the way you use capitalization, abbreviations, quotation marks, boldface and italics shouldn't vary within one document. Use commas, hyphens and dashes competently.
Wait. Set your document aside and read it with fresh eyes in a couple of hours or the next day.
Keep a list: If you tend to misspell certain words or make certain mistakes, make note of it and keep the list handy to consult when you're proofreading.
Hire a professional editor. Do you know the difference between affect and effect, how to use possessive apostrophes and the importance of pronoun-antecedent agreement? When you lack expertise in grammar, spelling or clear writing, a professional can save you from embarrassing errors and help you come across better.
Chris Swingle Farnum is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. Drawing on more than 20 years' experience as a daily newspaper reporter, she writes and edits reports, newsletter articles, press releases and other copy for individuals and organizations.