Sometimes you can just ignore it. But other times it gets in your way. Stops you in your tracks. Where’s the proofreader!?!
What’s the harm?
What’s the harm in a few errors? Plenty!
First, errors can annoy readers. Mistakes may stop readers in their tracks. No writer wants that.
Second, errors reflect badly on the author. If you’re setting yourself up as the go-to expert on a subject, you want to avoid looking stupid. If you’re a company selling a technical product, errors can make you look careless and sloppy. Not a good look in either case.
The best thing you can do to avoid errors (and looking stupid) is to hire an editor/proofreader. He/she can be on staff or freelance. If that’s not an option, here’s what I suggest:
1. Have someone else read what you write. 99.99% of people are bad at proofing what they’ve written. Another set of eyes will see things the author can’t see. Best case is to find someone who knows grammar, spelling and punctuation.
2. Set it aside and read it later. If you can’t find a proofreading buddy, use time to your advantage. Write your piece and then let a day (or at least half a day) go by before you read it again. This helps you see your words with fresh eyes so you can catch mistakes.
3. Use spell-check, but don’t rely on it alone. A computer can help you get spelling right, but it doesn’t know you mean “chance” when you type “change.”
4. Work from hard copy (a printout) rather than reading the file on a screen. This makes helps me by making it easier to mark mistakes for correction. It might work for you too.
5. Read it out loud. You'll hear problems you may not see when reading to yourself.
6. Focus on one line at a time. Don’t skip ahead and miss errors.
7. Know yourself! What mistakes do you usually make? Use your computer’s search function to find those errors in your text. (For example, search “you” if use of your and you’re is an issue.)
8. Use a tool like Grammarly to check your writing. This will help you clean things up by pointing out hard-to-read sentences, passive voice, duplicate words and other writing sins.
Avoid looking stupid by avoiding errors. Take the time to proofread.
For help with your next writing project, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org