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Last updated on 8/4/23

Proofread Effectively

You now know all about how to draft a text suited to your goal, your target and your chosen format. Next, you need to know how to finalize your written documents. The form is as important as the content!

Let’s start with spelling mistakes.

Learn to Recognise Frequent Errors

You need to recognize frequent spelling errors and how to avoid them.

Some of the mistakes most often made are as follows:

  • Double consonants in certain words such as "parallel" (who hasn’t asked themselves whether there are one or two Ls?)

  • Irregular plurals such as "zero" (sing.) – "zeros" (pl.); "embargo" (sing.) – "embargoes" (pl.)

  • Homophones such as "your" and "you're"

Also learn how to recognize syntax errors:

  • People often make mistakes by corrupting words or using words to mean something different from their general meaning. For example: "This could have an averse effect" ✗ instead of "This could have an adverse effect." ✓

  • A solecism is a fault of syntax. A frequently committed error is to say: "Between you and I" ✗ instead of "Between you and me." ✓

  • A paronym is a word that resembles another word with a different meaning, causing frequent confusion between the two. A frequently committed error is to say e.g., "Sales were effected by the weather" ✗ instead of "Sales were affected by the weather." ✓

  • Subordinate clauses aren't standalone sentences, such as "The references you mention."

In general, use short sentences to avoid errors of syntax.

I advise you to make a file (or keep a notebook) of errors you often make or words you often use that are hard to spell correctly. That way, you can refer to it in case of doubt. Making notes also enables you to remember things better.

Discover Tricks to Avoid Spelling Mistakes

Anticipate Your Potential Errors

Developing your awareness of the mistakes that you make often, as well as the mistakes that nearly everyone makes, will significantly reduce your proofreading workload in the future.

  • Is it their, there or they're? Than or then? Affect or effect?

  • Is it regardless or irregardless...?

  • E before I or I before E?

Use a Spellchecker

You can draft your text initially using a word processing program like Microsoft Word so that you can use the spellchecker.

Use Punctuation Correctly

Keep it simple and don’t use punctuation except to clarify your sentence and help it make sense.

Don’t use ellipses except when you are shortening a quotation.

"The letter mentions the penalties due (…) are to be paid within one month."  Ellipses, in other contexts, are more suited to a conversational register. 

Don’t use exclamation marks in your professional written documents.

"Hi Sarah," rather than "Hi Sarah!" which is too familiar.

Now that you know about frequent errors of spelling and syntax, you must be able to eliminate them by effective proofreading.

Proofread Your Writing Effectively

Being able to proofread your writing is an essential step towards producing an effective professional written document. Mistakes in writing can distract from your message and communicate a lack of professionalism and attention.

Quick and unmethodical proofreading is no use at all. So, here are two methods that can help you:

  • Thematic proofreading

  • Backwards proofreading

Proofread Thematically

Thematic proofreading consists of rereading the text several times, with a single goal for each rereading. What this goal is will depend upon the errors you make most frequently.


  • If you often forget words or information, proofread the text in its entirety paying attention to each word.

  • If you have difficulty in using correct punctuation, proofread the text checking only the punctuation.

  • If you tend to write sentences that are too long, reread the sentences one at a time making it your goal not to have sentences more than two lines long.

  • If you often rush through your proofread, consider breaking up the reading by looking at different paragraphs in a non-linear format throughout the day.

So, if you make lots of spelling and other errors, do proofread several times, concentrating on a single issue each time: spelling, then punctuation etc.

At each stage, think about avoiding repetition, adding linking words and putting keywords or function words in bold type.

  • A keyword is a word carrying a strong meaning. Using bold type enables faster assimilation of the ideas put forward in the document.

  • A function word is a word that is hard to memorize, but which, nonetheless, is helpful for understanding (e.g., a date).

Proofread Backwards

Proofreading backwards is a proofreading technique that consists of rereading a text by starting with the final sentences and working towards the beginning. This technique makes you concentrate on spelling errors, typing errors and missing words. This prevents the mind from anticipating the sentence or allowing itself to be carried along by the meaning and, thus, not noticing when there are missing words or errors.

You now know how to prepare, draft and effectively proofread your document. Sometimes what you are writing can be complex, abstract or include a large amount of numerical data. In this context, you may want to illustrate your points.

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