Prufreed, prrofreaad, proofread until you get it right!

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Winthrop Wilkinson III was applying for a most important professional position: Director of Marketing for a major health insurance provider. His resume gave a nice capsulated view of 20 highly successful years in the industry, with awards and promotions to showcase his efforts. Of course, in addition to this brief sketch of Winthrop’s professional life, a Cover Letter was needed. He dashed this off, and Winthrop felt satisfied that once read on the other end it would surely result in an interview. Yet, the Human Resources Director in the organization was less than thrilled, for Winthrop’s Cover Letter began like this: “I am treemendously  interested in the fecently-advertised posituon of Marketing Marketing Director, and I know my skills,m abilities, and experience would go a long way in helping  yourfirm grow!” Yes, Winthrop certainly had the right qualifications for the position, but one problem made the employer question the applicant’s attention to detail: no proofreading. This one major oversight has resulted in many job seekers not being called in for interviews and a gaggle of students receiving poor grades. It doesn’t have to be this way – ever.

Winthrop had made the second-worst writing error (after plagiarism) one could make: not taking the time to proofread his writing. Does this make him evil?  Should he be banned from ever again having a dessert?  Is Winthrop stupid?  No, no, and no!  We all have these typos – proofreading errors – when finished with one of our writing products.  (What you’re reading now?  Three proofreading errors before a second read caught each one!)  Yet although Winthrop penned a Cover Letter with no spelling errors, perfect punctuation, and congratulatory-worthy grammar these three pillars of the so-called Writing Foundation happen internally, i.e., while one is writing.  Once finished it can be a quick and easy thought to immediately post, mail, send, share, or upload the item.  This plays into a key reason why folks don’t like to write: time. It does take extra time to proofread; Winthrop couldn’t be bothered with that, and neither can millions of other folks who write.

The bad news: there has yet to be a proofreading pill one can take, a computer with anti-typo software, or an “uh-oh-you-have-proofreading-errors” sniffing dog. It’s only the human creature who can catch, delete, and correct these bombastic uglies from writing. Yet those extra minutes it takes to do this will be rewarded if one truism is always kept in mind:  any person will always be judged by others based on the quality of that individual’s writing – and it’s always crucial to be judged well.  Reading anything with nicely considered grammar, punctuation, and spelling, framed with no proofreading errors, will go a long way in pleasing the reader.

How could Winthrop assure his Cover Letter – and anything else he wrote  – had no proofreading errors? The answer is a combination of approaches; each one will certainly decrease proofreading errors, but bring in all and WOW: to use an old advertising slogan, they will kill proofreading mishaps dead!

The Anti-Proofreading Mistakes Approaches:

  • Read writing aloud. When going over writing with but one’s eyes and mind a strange thing can happen:  the mind can easily overlook a proofreading error as it knows what should be there and can assume it IS there!  Yet reading writing aloud allows for hearing items that just don’t sound right, that get caught in the throat, that are not smooth to the ear.  This immediately shouts “Halt!” and the dastardly “oops!” is caught.
  • Have another pair of eyes read the writing. The writer looks at their writing subjectively, that is, as the one who created the words, and thus may only skim. This can make it easy to gloss over a typo as we understand what we are trying to say, and therefore the content may be the major focus of this quick read. Yet another person reads the writing objectively – removed from being the author.  Here, the person reads all for a full understanding, and can then more easily come across proofreading errors. (A huge tip:  Purdue Global’s Writing Center — https://campus.purdueglobal.edu/page/writing-center  — has an excellent tutoring service.)
  • Take a break. Taking some time off enables the writer to see the document anew.  Whether it be a few hours or a few days proofreading errors not noticed in an initial read can be spied in a fresh read.
  • Read any computer-generated writing on a printout. Reading a document on a computer screen can be tiring, not inclusive, and without 100% focus. Yet printed that document will have 100% focus, it will be seen from a different perspective, and the words seem to have more life.
  • Read writing backwards. A weird approach this is, indeed, so what’s its value? Many typos happen by typing an extra letter or – as with Winthrop – hitting the wrong letter (his “fecently”).  These can be easy to overlook, even in a second or third read.  But reading one’s writing backwards forces a look at each word, and thus a surefire way of catching word typos.

As for Winthrop, he learned a valuable lesson: take the time to proofread so others can see the applicant (or any writer) as detailed, meticulous, and thorough. It’s great to know how to create easy-to-understand-and to-the-point content, with grammar, punctuation, and spelling of which one can be proud. Not taking the time to proofread, however, can shatter this writing perfection as if breaking a glass window, and it’s never fun to be left with jagged shards.

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