Proof is in the Detail


This is how The Macquarie Dictionary defines proofreading: ‘to read (printers’ proofs, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected’.

We all make mistakes, but rarely will they be more embarrassing than when they end up in professional communications.

But there’s much more to proofreading than just checking spelling and punctuation. Your word processing application’s spell checker is useful but it won’t catch everything (especially as its likely to be one produced in the US that might not recognise British/Australian spelling).

So in this issue of Business Sense we’re bringing you the top tips for proofreading your document whether it’s a manuscript, article, newsletter, advertisement, manual, or website.


Read your work over, and not just once. Make a list of the specific types of errors to look for like spelling, flow, punctuation and structure, and watch for them individually during each new read-through.

Read out loud

Speaking text has a different rhythm than writing or typing it. It’ll not only help you find the most elusive typos, it will warn you if the flow sounds off.

Read backwards

Yes, you read that right. Literally read every word from the end back to the beginning. It will force you to concentrate on every individual word rather than be swept up in the narrative, so you’ll catch more.

Print it out

Just like writing and speaking are different, so too are reading on paper versus a screen. Having a hard copy connects you to the text and makes you engage with it more deeply, and you’ll spot more errors.

There are many more professional tips to proofread work but often the most effective one is simply to ask someone else to read it. A fresh pair of eyes has no preconceptions about mistakes because without even realising it you might already have read them a few times and unconsciously internalised them.

Your most essential tool might be your reference materials. M.B. Secretarial Services uses The Macquarie Dictionary and Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers – one we can thoroughly recommend.

Can you spot the error in this article? Drop me a line if you can!

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