Margaret McGann

The trick is to send it right the first time

In communications and marketing, media relations, proofreading, public relations, writing on March 8, 2010 at 9:00 am

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. We’ve sent something to a client or the media and then realize it has a typo or an error.

You can avoid that embarrassment by using these tips.

Proofreading checklist

  1. Check and double-check the headline. It’s easy to forget to check the headline. The same goes for the subhead.
  2. Make sure the date and dateline are correct — the month, the day, the year or day, month, year. Check it again.
  3. Check and recheck the spelling of proper names.
  4. Check the “template” items (i.e., media contact info, your website address) on the bottom of the release and other materials to make sure details are correct.
  5. Review page numbers to make sure they’re correct.
  6. Check there are periods at the end of every sentence and periods are inside quotation marks.
  7. Make sure quotation marks and apostrophes are in the right font (if material is copied from an email, they often aren’t).
  8. Make sure any numbers add up and are accurate.
  9. Double-check proper names, especially the names of organizations. Some are possessive, some aren’t (i.e., Children’s Miracle Network)
  10. Double-check little words as they’re often interchanged: or, of, if, it, is.
  11. Make sure there are two spaces after periods. Make sure there aren’t extra spaces between words or after sentences.

Other Tips:

  1. Read it slowly out loud.
  2. Use a spellchecker and a grammar checker as a first screening, but don’t depend on them.
  3. Have others read it.
  4. Use a blank piece of paper to cover the material not yet proofed.
  5. Keep a list of your most common errors and proof separately for these items.
  6. Shorten your sentences. Sentences should average fewer than 20 words or two typed lines.
  7. Shorten your paragraphs. Paragraphs should be bite size.
  8. Take out what isn’t needed — remove the word “that” from sentences, unnecessary adjectives, flowery language, clichés, redundant expressions (third annual awards gala, first time ever).
  9. Change multi-syllabic words to one or two syllable words —they are easier to read and easier for your audience to understand.
  10. Take out negative words and replace with positives.
  11. Use active verbs rather than passive.

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