Have you ever clicked the submit button on a project and immediately afterward noticed a glaring, stomach-dropping, panic-inducing typo in your work? The consequences of delivering sloppy work can be dire, especially in the world of requirements where attention to detail is so important! If your stakeholders find errors, the credibility of your body of work can be put in danger. “If X is wrong, how can I be confident that Y is correct?”
Fortunately, built-in spell check comes standard in most software programs these days, and is a great first line of defense in the war against typos. Spell check will always let you know when you’ve accidentally repeated a word twice, used questionable grammar, or straight-up butchered the spelling of a word. But remember, spell check can never be the only soldier in your army of proofreading! Its ability is limited in recognizing misspellings of proper nouns, improper word usage (think your vs. you’re), and plain awkward wording. Below are five additional methods I find to be a must-have for any proofreading arsenal:
- Grab another pair of eyes
Have somebody else read your work, regardless if this individual is familiar with your subject matter or not. Getting an outside perspective can easily locate errors that you may have glossed over many times and missed.
- Print a hard copy
View your work with a different lens by printing it to paper and then reading it. Are there too many pages to print? Save some trees by modifying the font and/or font size, so your words display on your screen differently (just don’t forget to change it back when you’re done).
- Read your deliverable out loud
A great way to identify sentences that may be grammatically correct, but awkwardly worded, is through oral review. Reading out loud requires the use of a different area of your brain, which can provide another way to identify errors. Similarly, another great trick is to use a text to speech app to have your words dictated back to you.
- Sleep on it
If time allows, let your thoughts sink into your subconscious and re-read your work the next day. You may be surprised by the new ideas that pop into your head that could add value. If you can’t afford to wait a whole day, taking even a small break and coming back is helpful to refresh your mind.
- Triple-check attachments
This is especially crucial if your email is going to many recipients. If you are submitting multiple attachments via email, create a list of all of the files you need to deliver. (And don’t forget to proofread your attachments as well!) Attach the file(s) to your email draft, and open them to ensure proper versioning, display, etc. Send a test version of your final email to a different email address to ensure that attachments send properly.
Hopefully, the little bit of extra time you spend at the end to polish will show the pride and attention to detail you put into your work, and make your requirements shine! Do you have any other tips and tricks you use to proofread your work? I’d love to hear new ideas in the comments!