One of the downsides of instant communication is that we get into the habit of responding to everything quickly. We read a message—and boom, we bang out a reply within seconds, typos and all.
Although that may be fine for personal communication, it reflects poorly on your business’s image. Wouldn’t you rather know that a company takes its communications—and its clients—seriously and thoughtfully?
Communication is the key to success in business. Your message must be clear, concise, and convincing.
Don’t worry. I’m here to help with a few expert tips and tricks.
The 11 business proofreading techniques I’m about to share in this article will help you learn how to proofread like a pro so that your writing is easy to understand and impactful for your organization.
In a rush? Get this article as a PDF guide so you won’t miss these tips!
1. Take a Break From the Text
When you have just written a memo, email, letter, blog post, or article, you are“too close to it.”
So here is my firstbusiness proofreading technique: After you’ve finished writing your document, put it away—ideally, for 24 hours.
The reason? Your brain tends to skip over errors in something you have just created.
Try working on another project before you proofread the article you just wrote. When you open it again (ideally the the next day), you will be able to approach proofreading more objectively.
2. Create Your Own Proofreading Checklist
My second business proofreading technique is to make a proofreading checklist. This will help you avoid the normal pitfalls of business writing.
Your proofreading checklist should include reminders to check for things like:
- Spelling and grammar errors—especially with soundalike words like “their,” “they’re,” and “there” or “it’s” and “its”
- List items
- Figures that need to be accurate across tables
- Names that you reference—double-check spellings and job titles
- Style guide items:
- Writing style
- Placement of elements
Remember,spell-check programs can’t catch “form” for “from” or “sue” for “use.” But if you know you frequently make certain mistakes, you can spot them more easily on a careful read-through, thanks to your handy-dandy proofreading checklist.
Also, now that you have a proofreading checklist, consider developing your own proofreading system.Here’s an example of what I mean by this: Try checking your spelling on one read-through and your grammar and punctuation on another.
Develop a system that splits up the tasks, and you will be more deliberate and detail-oriented.
Swipe Our FREE Business Writing Checklist
Print it out. Keep it handy. It’ll change your life.
3. Use the Folded-Paper Trick to Proofread Line by Line
This proofreading trick will allow you to go through your document one line at a time on your computer. You’ll also save time and paper by not printing a hard copy.
Begin by hiding any tracked changes so that you are looking at a“clean” copy on your screen.
Then fold a piece of paper in half and use the edge of that paper to read each line, line by line, holding the paper up to the screen. This way you’re seeing only one line of your text at a time.When you isolate your work, you tend to notice mistakes more readily.
It’s a simple trick that works well and doesn’t require printing anything out. I use this folded-paper trick all the time when I’m proofreading for our business clients at Super Copy Editors. You can reuse the folded paper again and again (and even jot down a few notes on it).
4. Read Your Sentences Aloud to Catch Errors
Taking the time to read your text aloud may help you find errors you missed during a silent read:
- Spot awkward sentences and rewrite them for easier reading.
- Notice missing words and add them.
- Test punctuation to see if it aligns with your intent.
- Hear how the sentences flow together and decide if any wording requires changes.
It’s amazing what you’ll catch when you use the spoken word as you proofread business text.
5. Review the Structure of Each Sentence
Every sentence needs a subject and a verb, and you should avoid excessive use of adverbs, especially “intensive” adverbs, such as “very,” “truly,” “really,” “actually,” and “extremely.”
Be sure every sentence expresses a complete thought. If a sentence doesn’t advance your point in a meaningful way, eliminate it.
If you find some sentences that appear long, see if you can split them up to improve readability.
6. Check the Flow and Sequencing of Your Content
Next, make sure you have sequenced the points you are writing about in a logical order.
Check that you are using language that is familiar in your business so that your readers can immediately understand what you are conveying.
Reread each section of the text to be sure it flows from point to point.
7. Explain Any Jargon and Get Rid of Any Clichés
It’s important to explain technical terms in your text, in case someone outside your immediate division is reading your content.
When you use acronyms, spell them out when you first mention them and include the acronym in parentheses. After the first mention, using only the acronym is appropriate.
Be mindful of overusing business speak. In fact, Inc. magazine says two of the most cringe-inducing habits that can instantly kill your credibility are:
- Biz-blab: “I’m reaching out to leverage a dialogue so we can take a deep dive, drill down, and move the needle.”
- Clichés: “Let’s really think outside the box on this and knock it out of the ballpark—but at the end of the day, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Look, just keep it plain and simple. Business writing expert Laura Brown, writing in Forbes, says:
“Using jargon is second nature for most of us, and breaking the habit requires some effort. But if you can pause for a moment and consider what you really want to say, then say it in plain English, you’ll connect more immediately with your reader and have a bigger impact.”
8. Check Your Facts
No list of business proofreading techniques would be complete without mentioning the importance of fact-checking in business writing.
If you’re quoting facts or statistics in your document, check them for accuracy.
Be sure that you have quoted sources correctly and that any statistics you cite are up-to-date.
In her book Fundamentals of Business Communication, Venecia Williams notes, “Inaccurate content can expose you and your organization to liability and will create far more work than a simple revision of a document.”
9. Verify Every Number
Carefully check every number you use for accuracy, including:
- Page and chapter numbers—be certain none are missing
- Statistical sample numbers
- Dollar amounts—be sure they are accurate down to the last decimal place, stated in the correct currency, and consistent across the whole document
- Phone numbers
- Times of day—verify that you are stating them correctly relative to the time zone your readers are in
10. Pay Attention to Names
Go over every name in your text. Be sure that you’ve spelled them correctly—including any accents, tildes, or other diacritics. Also, check the proper job title for each person you mention.
When you verify each name and title, you show respect to the people you’ve cited in your document.
“To the writer, and to some readers, spelling the name ‘Michelle’ instead of ‘Michele’ may seem like a minor matter, but to Michele herself, it will make a big difference,” says Williams.
“Incorrect spelling of names is a quick way to undermine your credibility,” she says, adding that “it can also have a negative impact on your organization’s reputation, and in some cases, it may even have legal ramifications.”
Don’t forget! Download “11 Business Proofreading Techniques for Strong, Credible Writing” to keep it handy and take action on it. Click here to download it now.
11. Follow the Prescribed Style Guide
Finally, if your company uses a style guide for communications, be certain that your work conforms to it.
Use the correct formatting for your:
- Title page
- Table of contents
- Section titles and contents
Make sure that any logos you use are the newest versions and that fonts, sizes, and colors are consistent.
If the document must be delivered in a specific writing style, be sure you know the important points about that style. When you are well-versed in the accepted writing style, your work comes across as being more credible to your readers.
So you’ve made one last edit.
Great! Now, be sure to recheck the whole sentence or paragraph.
You know how when you paint a room in your home, the furniture looks shabby all of a sudden? Well, if you make a last-minute change to a sentence, double-check the sentence and maybe even the entire paragraph.
That seemingly small change you made could have thrown off the flow of your work.
Proofreading business documents involves much more than I could ever cover in a single article. There are a lot of fine points to remember, and you can improve with practice.
If you’d like to avoid the hassles of proofreading business documents on your own, look no further than the professional proofreading team at Super Copy Editors. When you trust us with your documents, you can relax knowing that we will deliver polished, error-free content that reinforces and enhances your credibility.
We handle the heavy lifting of making sure your text is clear and easy to read so you can get back to focusing on your business. Get your quote from Super Copy Editors, and learn how we can customize our comprehensive proofreading services to fit your needs.