Like so many other aspects of writing, the importance of proofing is determined by your audience.
If job #1 is accurately communicating information and you can do it with word fragments and emojis, then maybe all you need is a brief review to make sure you’ve accurately conveyed your message.
(e.g. No way! I’ll be there! v. No way I’ll be there!)
However, if you’re trying your best to make a good impression, then proofing is a critical part of your writing.
The very best proofing tip is to have another set of (knowledgeable) eyes look at your work, but if time is short, use these tips to make the most of your solo efforts.
1. Read it out loud.
If you’re in public, you can just mouth the words, but be sure to read each and every word like you did when you were just learning to read. You’ll uncover typos, but you’ll also identify confusing phrases and sentences that go on and on (and on).
2. Check the hot spots.
Typical places where typos hide are at the ends of lines, in captions and footnotes, in titles and headings, and in headers and footers.
3. Make sure everything’s there.
If you have multiple pages, check that every page has a page number and that they are in the correct order. Check for repeated (or missing) information as you move from the bottom of one page to the top of the next.
4. Read the first and last pages twice.
These are often the most edited pages in a document and therefore have the most potential for typos, repeated words, and other “stupid” mistakes. It’s also a good idea because lots of people read intros and conclusions and skip the stuff in between.
5. Look at each page as a whole.
You’ll be surprised how well your eyes do without your specific instructions. It’s the “What’s wrong with this picture” approach to proofing and can help you find everything from misspelled words to missing footers to inconsistent formatting.
BONUS: When you’re doing online proofing, change the size of your window (or your type size) to force new lines and new page breaks.