You can write the most emotional letter, grateful thanks, or snappy email in the entire world – but it can all be derailed by a big, dumb typo. Sometimes, running spellcheck just isn’t enough. That’s especially true for fundraisers, since we usually write in plain language that Word or Pages can struggle to understand.

So you proofread. And you get your co-worker to proofread. And when your letter or brochure goes to print, you read it one more time, hoping and praying for no typos.

These tips are small, but mighty. I’ve used them time and time again to catch errors that would otherwise ruin my copy. So, next time you’re reading through copy that absolutely, positively must be right – try them out.

1) Change your font. After hours of reading emails, webpages, and documents, your eyes get tired of reading the same old Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman. It all becomes one big blur. Shake it up by changing to a completely different font – something you’d never normally use – to force your eye to read more carefully.

2) Read out loud. Sometimes things so perfect and persuasive in your head – and then you say the words out loud and realize you sound like a toddler. By speaking the words you’ve written down, you get a better feel for syntax and rhythm. This can help you add or modify punctuation and break up long sentences – and those are two things that make writing easy to read and easy to understand.

3) Relocate. When you sit at your desk all day long, everything becomes familiar and frenetic. You get used to answering emails, putting out fires, opening attachments. You’re in rapidfire mode, but distractions like that don’t help your proofreading. I’ve found that sitting somewhere else can be enough to get that reset, and let me focus on what I’m reading. If you can ditch the laptop and cellphone, and just proof on paper, so much the better.

4) Read backwards. This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s awesome for catching weird typos, words that should be other words (like ‘form’ and ‘from’), and double words. It’s not so great for getting meaning and concept, but it’s a useful thing to do as a last read-through. If it’s something that ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CONTAIN ANY TYPOS (I’m looking at you, Annual Reports), this trick is a fail-safe.

Bonus Tip: Go line by line. Get another piece of paper and cover up every line below the one you’re reading. It gives your eye an easy guide to follow, which helps to keep your eyes from wandering around the page and skipping over words.

Do you have an editing or proofreading tip that you swear by? Do you use any of mine? Let me know in the comments below!


Banner Image by Mark Hunter on Flickr via Creative Commons.