Okay, so that headline is a little strong ... masses LOL. Makes me think of Music for the Masses or wait! Was that Music for the People ... or perhaps Ghost in the Machine or Kiss for the Rose ... LMAO ... I am in a weird, little mood today. All right so yesterday I was reading the mass of junk mail I receive in my in-box, and one newsletter stood out. It had some great public relations information. I saw an article on proofreading, and it gave some great tips for the layperson to use. I have my own, so I thought I would share and help the "masses" or better yet the average businessperson.
Tip #1 -- Take a piece of paper and cover up everything but the sentence you are reading. I like to call this the "non-green" method because unless you do this on a flat-screen like an iPad, you have to print up what you're proofing. This method works because your eye is not somehow wandering ahead of the sentence. The "wandering" eye isn't really controllable, you will find you naturally do it. Covering up those words forces you to focus just on that sentence.
Tip #2 -- Read it backward. When you read backward you are only looking at single words to ensure they are spelled correctly. Commonly misspelled words, though, tend to be nouns or adjectives that are one word not two words (e.g., every day vs. everyday). I see this mistake made by even the most seasoned editors and writers. Sometimes you really have to think about it, too. I professionally edit so I make it a priority to just look it up. I don't have the leeway to just assume. And let me tell you the prime rule of editing that always makes people laugh, "If it's wrong yesterday, it's still wrong today, and it's still wrong tomorrow."
Tip #3 -- If it's a professional piece (business letter, brochure, resume, book, etc.) hire an editor! I know so simple, right? I know it's terribly unfair, but people will judge your mistakes (they are what I humorously call the "grammar police"), and to your aggravation they will think you're illiterate (even if you have a Ph.D.), and many of the top policemen or women will smugly rub it in your face. Some people take great pride in telling you, "Uh, Bob you misspelled 'their' ... it's 'there,' dude!" If you are writing anything that is going to "go on forever" then you have to hire an editor. The last part of this, don't assume "it's all clean and perfect," especially if it's a manuscript. I have NEVER run across a manuscript (even one already edited by a professional) that didn't contain mistakes. Editing to perfection (or as close as you can get) is almost as hard as physics (not exaggerating). I will give you my common metaphor to help you understand why it's a tough job to get a manuscript 100-percent scrubbed. Imagine a big jar of black Jelly Belly's. Now take that jar and empty it on a white table. Now go and find the flawed jellybeans. Doesn't sound so easy anymore, does it?
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