Mistakes make us look stupid. Period. Mistakes in our writing also lower our credibility, whether they show up in a document, an email, or a chat message. When readers see errors in your writing, they might assume that:

  • You’re a sloppy writer.
  • Your spelling/punctuation/grammar knowledge is subpar.
  • You’re not detail-oriented.
  • You don’t care enough to check for mistakes.
  • You don’t care enough about them to check for mistakes.

Yet we are all moving (and writing) so fast that mistakes are inevitable. What to do? Accept that you’ll make mistakes when writing, then commit to finding and fixing them by proofreading your work.

Not a proofreader? Not a problem. Here are six ways to check your words before you click Print or Send:

Six Proofreading Tips That Will Clean Up Your Content

Put it away for a while and look at it with fresh eyes. “A while” might be your lunch break or even a 24-hour period.

Read it out loud – not mentally to yourself in your head, but out loud so you can hear it.

Have someone else read it.

Print it out and go through it word for word, with a pen in hand.

Use a red (or other colored) pen so your corrections stand out.

Look for:

  • Incorrect words, such as “should of” instead of “should have”
  • Grammatical errors such as verb tense
  • Typos and mistakes
  • Punctuation errors such as extra commas or missing periods
  • Inconsistent capitalization, such as saying Salesperson in one place and salesperson in another
  • Inconsistent punctuation and spelling such as email and e-mail
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Missing words
  • Misspelled words, especially the names of people, projects and places
  • Extra words such as “the the”
  • Facts: Make sure numbers are correct, as well as phone numbers, URLs and email addresses
  • Extra spaces or line breaks

Experience makes you a better proofreader and a writer less prone to make mistakes in the first place. So get into a good habit and proofread everything, even that text to your coworker about lunch. Speaking of coworkers, offer to proofread for them too. You’ll develop a trained eye that finds and fixes mistakes faster.

Proofread! It’s your writing and your reputation. It’s worth one last look!

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.