Writing is not only about choosing the right words, but also about formatting, sentence structure and grammar.
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Once the document has been created you’ll then need to review your work carefully to make sure it’s error-free and grammatically correct.
In this article, we will give you an overview of the processes of proofreading, peer review, and preparing business documents for printing and electronic publishing.
Proofreading is the systematic check for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and typographical errors. It is different from editing, which is used for checking accuracy, consistency, clarity, and organisation of written text.
Deliberate time and effort must be invested in proofreading. Our minds can easily miss omitted words, incorrect spelling or improper use of sentence structures, unless trained to look for them. This happens particularly when we are proofreading our own work, or when we are familiar with the subject matter of the document.
Most of us can think faster than we can type. The gap between our thinking process and our typing makes it likely that we will leave certain words out (omission) or make assumptions about the reader’s understanding.
Spell-check and grammar-check functions in word processing software are good ways to start the proofreading process, but I’m sure you’ve seen them say something is incorrect even though we know what we’re written makes sense. And that they are not reliable in spotting all errors especially if you’re using a version of non-US English.
Here are some tips on effective proofreading:
Avoid proofreading immediately after writing. If possible, put the material aside for a few hours or days before starting to proof the document. Try and shift to a ‘critical’ mindset before proofreading your own work.
Read slowly and consider every word. Read what is actually on the page and watch if you’re filling in blanks! Use a coloured pen to highlight and identify problem areas.
Look for one error at a time. You can start at different parts of the paper every time to avoid the negative effects of familiarity with the text. This is especially true for longer documents.
When in doubt, utilise a peer review process.
How Peer Reviews Work
Peer review is the process of submitting your work to the scrutiny of another writer, an expert, or a fellow member of your team, with the goal of getting constructive feedback. Peer reviews can be done ‘blindly’, with the identity of the writers kept from the reviewer or in a more open fashion.
Peer review benefits both the writer and the reviewer:
- The writer gains insight on the quality of their writing, or at least how their work comes across to another reader. They also get advice on the strengths and weaknesses of their writing from someone presumably working in the same context that they do. This advice can help them improve the current document as well as any writing done in the future.
- The reviewer then gets to develop their proofreading and editing skills, which can help them in identifying and resolving their own writing issues.
It’s important that you choose carefully who would review your work.
While a fellow team member – a peer – can already be effective in getting valuable feedback, not everyone is effective as a reviewer. If a reviewer does not have enough time to review your work, delights in finding your errors, or is biased against you, then you might not get good feedback.
Once the review is complete you can them move to the production aspect of creating the document in various form forms for printing and electronic distribution.
Printing and Electronic Publishing
A business proposal can look perfect on your computer screen or on your draft copy, but there’s no guarantee that the final printed or published version will look same after it’s produced. It’s important that you take time to anticipate printing and publishing issues especially in business writing because the document will be seen (and judged) by others.
Here are some tips on printing and publishing your business documents:
Always check the ‘print preview’ (a function available in most word processing software) before printing a document. Make sure that all text, tables, and graphics are within the page margin and the page is properly laid out. You may find the “landscape” feature helpful when printing graphs.
Be careful when changing computers for printing purposes. Opening a document using different software, or an outdated software version, from the original can result in major formatting errors. This is why most professional writers and printers prefer to use portable data files (.pdf) for printing and electronic publishing.
Check your publisher for guidelines on what quality of graphics, pictures and clip arts you should use. Images of a low resolution (lower pixel count or DPI settings) may not translate well on print, depending on the quality of the printer and ink.
To be sure, always have a print draft for review before making many copies. Typesetting can introduce errors in a text that weren’t there before. Autocorrect functions in word processing software can also introduce errors.
One trick when copying text from one piece of software to another is to use notepad as a tool to remove unwanted layout settings. Simply cut and paste the text into a notepad documents, then copy and paste it from notepad and you’ll remove all layout code.