It happens to the best of us. You write an email that is nothing short of poetry, filled with gorgeous imagery evoked by your carefully selected prose. As you hit send, you see it: that “for” when you meant “from” or that “to” that should be “too.” They are those little mistakes your brain just didn’t register – no matter how many times you proofread your work.
Typos happen. Our brains, remarkable as they may be in so many other respects, aren’t all that good at catching typos, especially in our own work. This is because our brain literally autocorrects as the words go from the page to the eye.
In order to combat this, you’ve got to trick yourself into seeing things differently. Here are five tips for ensuring your mellifluous memos are error-free.
- Read out loud: Our brains insert words where there are none because we expect them to be there (thanks, brain). Reading out loud slows down our processing functions and helps us better see errors and omissions.
- Print it out: Don’t try to proofread your own work on screen. You are just asking for trouble. Instead, print it out and read your work away from the glare of the monitor.
- Read backwards: Sometimes, if I’ve read something so many times that the words have lost all meaning and have become visual gobbledygook, I read backwards. Starting at the end of a paragraph, I read the last sentence first and so on. This method isn’t any good at catching punctuation errors or other mistakes for which you need to consider the relationship between sentences, but it might help you see that you wrote “taking” when you really meant “talking.”
- Walk around: I have been known to walk laps around the conference table, printout in one hand, red pen in the other, all while mumbling aloud. Doing two things at once may seem counterintuitive, but I find getting out of my chair and moving my legs makes me sharper. A change of scenery never hurts, either.
- Have someone else read your work: When it comes right down to it, the only way to really ensure your work is not beset by mistakes is to ask competent colleagues to proofread it for you. Their brains don’t have the same relationship to the words that yours does (after all, it helped you create them in the first place), so they’ll