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issue 30

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The Pocket Book of Proofreading – William Critchley

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Training Bulletin Issue 30

Three lucky people will win an elegant French Dinner for two!

Um, right. So, two of us eat while one poor person sits and watches? Or do six people get to eat?

What about this one? “Traders accept the orders from the sales traders and are then executed.” I know sales traders are being blamed for a lot of the economy’s current problems but even so, this seems a bit harsh.

The trouble with both of these sentences is that the writers probably knew exactly what they wanted to say but didn’t realise how ambiguous their final words were. Editing and proofreading your writing can be very difficult when you know exactly what you were trying to say, because you tend to see what you think is there rather than what is actually there.

That final sanity check

All too often, people don’t leave enough time to check their writing—they have a deadline, it looks ok and there are no red squiggly lines from the spell checker. So off it goes, and you end up with the following sorts of gems:

Actually, it’s fairly easy to work out what’s wrong with those two. In each case, they are ambiguous because of the order of the words. Ask yourself which bit of the sentence the London councillors relate to: the discussion with police or the people being drunk? And what’s going on in Oxford: the inquests or the deaths?

Over-reliance on the software

We are now so accustomed to those red or green squiggles in our Word® documents that we think they are the only editing and proofreading we need to do. Unfortunately, this can lead to major problems, as Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, found out recently, when the press mocked him for the spelling and grammatical mistakes in his blog. Here are some of the words he got wrong:

Even if the blog is actually written by a minion rather than Mr Night himself, that’s still pretty embarrassing. Possibly it was written using an application that didn’t apply a grammar or spell checker, and this is all the more reason to know how to check your own documents effectively.

Ten top tips for effective proofreading

The best approach is to get someone else to proofread your text – they can approach the text as a stranger without your preconceptions. But even before you send it off to someone else, get it into as good a shape as you can—why look dim in front of a colleague?

  1. Have a tidy desk – you are your own worst interrupter if things catch your eye.
  2. Proofread when you are fresh – it takes a lot of concentration.
  3. Leave it and do something else first – give yourself time to forget what you wrote.
  4. Know where to find the proofreader’s tools of the trade online – dictionary, thesaurus etc.
  5. Schedule – allocate time. Proofreading is a specific task, not something just fitted in.
  6. Avoid interruptions, go somewhere quiet, divert phone calls.
  7. Take breaks – relax and then you can concentrate afresh.
  8. Divide the document into sections – set yourself a limit, “I’ll do this and then stop for a drink.”
  9. To spot the typos, read it backwards so you’re not distracted by the meaning of the text, or try reading it aloud.
  10. Enlarge small text—easier to proofread, easier to mark.

These are just some of the suggestions from our new course on How to Edit and Proofread Effectively. You will also learn:

But if you’d rather just hand your documents to someone else to edit and proofread then why not pass them to us? For more information either follow this link or call us on 01235 60 30 22.

Editor recommends

The Pocket Book of Proofreading: A Guide to Freelance Proofreading and Copy-editing, by William Critchley. An up to date guide to everything you need to get started as a proofreader or copy editor, written in an accessible style.

Public course schedule

Follow this link for the dates of our public courses.

The price is £495 + VAT per person for a one-day course and £850 + VAT for a two-day course. Half day courses are £295 + VAT per person.

Consultancies cost £850 + VAT for one day or £500 + VAT for half a day, held at your premises.

We also offer private courses at your premises. We offer a 10% discount for not-for-profit organisations and a sliding scale of discounts for multiple bookings. Please call 01235 60 30 22 for details.

How to book

To book, call Julia on 01235 60 30 22 ext 28, or use the booking form.

Kind Regards
The Plain Words Training Team

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