I was discussing the problems caused by too much reliance on Microsoft’s spell checker with some students last week. I cited my favourite story of a consultancy who lost a contract with a well-known Dairy because they unfortunately described them in their proposal as a ‘Diary’. There is nothing more likely to lose your audience than having an article, a proposal or even a blog which contains poor spelling or typos.
When you present neat, high-quality and well written documents, letters, reports and proposals, you send a message to the reader that you and your organisation have a high self-image and care about delivering a quality service.
Like body language signals which tell you how people are feeling, your written communications pass on messages as well. After all when you find errors in other people’s writing you tend to focus on those rather than the message.
If you want to write effectively you need to check your work carefully so that all errors are eliminated. And in order to ensure that all your written communications are presented well you need to be skilled at proof reading.
Proof reading is easier with a fresh eye. If possible you should set your writing aside for a day or two before checking it.
• Read sentences aloud so you can hear the sentence structure or word usage mistakes.
• Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If the same things come up regularly make a list of the correct words to keep by you when you are checking.
• Make sure your punctuation helps the reader to make sense of your writing.
• Check for typing errors. A useful technique is to read each sentence from right to left.
• Check for clichés and excessive words
• A great approach is to ask a colleague to proof read for you and you can return the favour when they need help.
Microsoft can be helpful at the end of your edit with their readability statistics. Sign up to it through the Spellchecker/Thesaurus link. It provides a mass of information about how readable your document is. You should be aiming at a reading ease of above 55% and reading grade level below 10.
This blog for example is marked at 64.5 for reading ease and a reading grade of 8.3. So it should have been an easy and undemanding read!
I run workshops on all aspects of business writing including minute writing, report writing, writing for marketing, letters and emails. Download a PDF here