How to proofread like a pro: Handy Guide

The ultimate guide to proofreading your copy for print or online

Have you ever sent a file to print or published content online only to find a typo after the fact? If it can happen to the Australian Mint, it can happen to anyone.

Our new handy guide, How to proofread like a pro will help you easily identify and fix errors before it's too late.

The guide contains helpful hints on what to look for when it comes to grammar, punctuation and spelling. There's even a list of commonly misspelled words. Read the guide below or download your free copy of the guide here.

 

Download your free guide

 

The purpose of proofreading is to identify and correct any errors that remain in your copy prior to publication. Proofreading is the final stage of editing, which focuses on grammar, punctuation and spelling. It should take place before preparing final artwork files for print or publishing information online.

For more details about editing, check out the first guide in this series, How to edit copy like a pro: the ultimate guide.

10 TOP TIPS FOR PROOFREADING

1. Never proofread on screen; always print a copy. It is much easier to miss things on a screen.

2. Ask someone other than the person who wrote the copy to proofread.

3. If using multiple people to proofread, print one copy and ask them to mark up their edits on the same document.

4. Read the copy aloud to stay focused and help prevent skipping lines or words.

5. Edit to improve the quality of your content first and proofread last.

6. Check grammar, punctuation and spelling.

7. Look for repetition of words. When proofreading, these can be easily identified if you consciously check each separate word on the page.

8. Beware of homophones (words that are pronounced the same but have different spelling) such as to/too, they’re/their, allowed/ aloud, stare/stair.

9. If you are unsure about the use or spelling of a word, look it up.

10. Double check that your final changes have been correctly applied by a designer before approving final art.

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK

  • Table of contents
  • Page numbers
  • References
  • Phone numbers, website, email and street addresses
  • Spelling of names and titles
  • Break out boxes or quotes
  • Captions
  • Consistency of usage for brand or industry-related terms

GRAMMAR

Run-on sentences

Run on sentences should be either split into separate sentences or use a conjunction such as and, but or if.

✔️ People are being friendly and everyone is having a good time.

✔️ People are being friendly. Everyone is having a good time.

❌ People are being friendly, everyone is having a good time.

Could of and could have

Could have is always correct.

✔️ He could have gone swimming but the water was too cold.

❌ He could of gone swimming but the water was too cold.

Tautologies

A tautology is saying the same thing twice using different words. It is best to avoid unnecessary words in business writing.

Commonly used tautologies include:

→ He tends to over-exaggerate

→ It was adequate enough

→ In close proximity

→ Predictions about the future

→ Necessary requirement

Dangling modifiers

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word that is not clearly stated in the sentence. It can confuse readers. Changing the sentence can fix a dangling modifier.

✔️ As we were crossing the street, the car came around the corner.

❌ Crossing the street, the car came around the corner.

Affect versus effect

These two words are commonly confused. Affect is usually a verb because it refers to an action. Effect is a noun meaning “the result of” or “in consequence”.

✔️ Queensland was negatively affected by the 2010 floods.

✔️ The changes made had an immediate effect.

PUNCTUATION

Unnecessary apostrophes

An apostrophe can be used to form a possessive. For example “the cat’s paw” means the paw belongs to the cat. An apostrophe should not be used to make something plural (meaning there is more than one person or thing).

✔️ My cats love to drink milk.

❌ My cat’s love to drink milk.

✔️The cars were made in Europe.

❌ The car’s were made in Europe.

 

An apostrophe can also be used to form a contraction which is a shortened word. For example can’t instead of cannot. Or it’s instead of “it is” or “it has”. When using it’s in the possessive form, don’t include an apostrophe.

✔️Our team lost its first home game.

❌ Our team lost it’s first home game.

 

Missing commas

A missing comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence or phrase. It’s important to pay attention to comma usage.

✔️ Let’s eat, grandpa.

❌ Let’s eat grandpa.

 

Comma usage

Do not use a comma after a main clause when followed by a subordinate clause.

✔️ My drink arrived while I waited for my friend.

❌ My drink arrived, while I waited for my friend.

 

Colons and semicolons

A colon (:) indicates something is following, such as a list.

✔️ Today I ate three meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A semicolon (;) is most commonly used to join two independent clauses in a sentence. The information in the clauses should be related.

✔️ I can’t attend your event; my sister is coming that day.

 

Overusing exclamation marks

If you’re writing for business, it is best to keep exclamation marks to a minimum.

 

SPELLING 

Be aware of commonly misspelled words. Refer to the list below for the correct spelling or check online.

→ Acceptable

→ Accommodation

→ Achieve

→ Acknowledge

→ Acquaintance

→ Address

→ Almost

→ Apparently

→ Basically

→ Boarder (accommodation)

→ Border (boundaries)

→ Chief

→ Commitment

→ Complement (completes, enhances, makes perfect)

→ Compliment (expression of praise or commendation)

→ Conscientious

→ Deceive

→ Definitely

→ Dependent

→ Disappoint

→ Disastrous

→ Embarrass

→ Exceed

→ Existence

→ Extreme

→ Government

→ Ignorance

→ Immediately

→ Independent

→ Judgement

→ Liaise/liaison

→ Necessary

→ Noticeable

→ Occasion

→ Occurrence

→ Persevere

→ Publicly

→ Receive

→ Recommend

→ Remember

→ Separate

→ Successful

→ Supersede

→ Vacuum