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17 proofreading tips for the law office

Proofreading is part of your daily work life in a law office and you are probably already an expert. But here are 17 tips and tricks you can use to help you catch every typo, misplaced comma and wrong word.

First and best tip is to proofread backwards. Begin at the end and work back through the document paragraph by paragraph or even line by line. This will force you to look at the surface elements rather than the meaning of the document.

2. Place a ruler under each line as you read it. This will give your eyes a manageable amount of text to read.

3. Know your own typical mistakes. Keep a list of the errors you make repeatedly.

4. Proofread for one type of error at a time. If commas are your most frequent problem, go through the document checking just that one problem. Then proofread again for the next most frequent problem.

5. Try to make a break between writing and proofreading. Set the document aside and work on something else for at least a quarter of an hour.

6. Proofread at the time of day when you are most alert to spotting errors. Typically, you will be least effective late in your work day.

7. Proofread once aloud. This will slow you down and you will hear the difference between what you meant to type and what you actually typed.

8. Take a break between writing and editing. Try to give yourself a break between the time you complete your final version of the document and the time you sit down to edit.

9. Ask someone else to read over your document and help you find sentences that aren’t clear, places where you’re being wordy, and any errors.

10. Read a sentence at a time. This will help you focus on the sentences, rather than getting caught up in the content of your document.

11. Know your own patterns. Recall the errors you’ve made most often in your previous projects, and then you can focus your attention on finding and fixing them.

12. Read through your document several times. One time, look just at spelling, another time looking just at punctuation, and so on. Again, this can help you focus so you’ll do a better job.

13. Don’t rely on spell-checking or autocorrect. Use the spell-checker of course, but use it carefully, and also do your own spell-checking. Computer spell-checkers often make errors—they might suggest a word that isn’t what you want at all, and they don’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re, for example.

14. Get help. If you’re not sure if you need that comma or whether to use affect or effect, look it up.

15. Remember that editing isn’t just about errors. You want to polish your sentences at this point, making them smooth, interesting, and clear. Watch for very long sentences, since they may be less clear than shorter, more direct sentences. Pay attention to the rhythm of your writing; try to use sentences of varying lengths and patterns. Look for unnecessary phrases, repetition, and awkward spots.

16. Magnify the view on your screen. Use the control-plus keys for a close-up view of the words. And use control-minus to back away and see the big picture, which might show you formatting problems such as breaks in the middle of a paragraph.

17. Print. While we all try to use less paper, it can be easier to see errors on a hard copy than on a screen.

 

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