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Zoom in on document trouble spots

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in Workplace Communication

Proofreading a document for grammar and spelling mistakes won't snag every error, and while program features such as automatically updated fields help, they aren't completely foolproof.

Take at least one additional pass through the pages to check for blunders in these areas:

Appearance. Look at each page and sets of facing pages with a "big picture" view of the layout, spacing and any special headings or fonts. Are styles consistent?

Look closer at the layout for other errors and visual distractions, such as several lines of type in a row ending in the same word or a hyphen, creating a "stacked" appearance.

Are words correctly split over lines? ("Proj-ect" is a noun, "pro-ject" a verb.)

Fancy fonts. Typos love to hide in text formatted differently from the rest of the document, particularly words that are all capitalized.

Sequence. Are the page and chapter numbers in order? Does the information in the table of contents match the document? (Is that the chapter title, and does it start on that page?)


In lists, does "G" follow "F" and "4" precede "5," or are they out of order?

Connections. Do footnotes, figures and other illustrations appear on the appropriate pages? Are cross-references within the document in order? If it's an electronic file, are hyperlinks working correctly?

Adding up. Is the sum of numbers in a row the same as the "total" figure? Do percentages on a pie chart add to more than 100? (Perhaps you need a footnote explaining they have been rounded.)

Known trouble spots. Keep a list of common types of errors in text that you proofread regularly. And if you find one error, look closer at that section because another error is likely lurking in the same word or sentence.

Boilerplates. Don't overlook standardized information, such as the description of your organization or its mission, the address and the phone number.

Sense. Finally, question the author about passages or numbers that puzzle you. A section of text may be missing, or transposed numbers or a lost decimal could cause your document to cite gasoline prices of $7.16 or $176 per gallon.

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