Cheryl Sucharski, guest blogger

ProoreadersProofreading is one of my favorite tasks. I’m not sure why I love it. Perhaps because it feels like finding Waldo, I don’t know. But I do a lot of it. I have found that no matter the client, I seem to see the same five errors more than any others.

  1. Incorrect name spelling – Spelling a name wrong is a big, bad error. Always look up the proper spelling of names. Company names can be especially tricky; sometimes they have capital letters in the middle, they may be two words joined with or without a space or hyphen, and they may be all lowercase or a combination of upper and lowercase. Never, ever assume you have it correct (or someone has given it to you correctly) and remember — spell check won’t save you on this.
  2. Capitalization – There are basic rules for capitalization and if you follow them, you’ll do just fine (generally, proper nouns and the first word in a sentence). I see a lot of overcapitalization and the incorrect capitalization of job titles (more on this in a minute). Capitalizing words won’t automatically give them more power or emphasis. If you need to add emphasis, you can use italics or underlining — and that should be done sparingly. Stick to the rules. Job titles should be capitalized when they are used as a form of address and precede a name, but not when they follow a name or when they appear on their own in a sentence.
  3. Punctuation with quotation marks – The rule here is simple, place commas and periods inside the quotation mark and place colons and semicolons on the outside.
  4. Number representation – When using numbers, spell out numbers one through nine and use digits for anything higher.
  5. Using two spaces in between sentences – Double spacing in between sentences goes back to the days of using typewriters, when every character occupied the same amount of space and that extra separation was needed. Simply said, it’s outdated. And if you use two spaces in between sentences in certain justifications, you may end up with an errant space at the beginning of a line.

There are always exceptions, but if you follow the basic rules, most people won’t notice those rare exceptions. And it only takes a moment to look up the rule if you aren’t sure (and you’ll benefit by learning something new in the process). And another tip — it’s difficult to proofread your own work. Even the best of us will miss something (the mind does tend to skim) so if you have a friend who can give the piece a quick once over, it’s worth it.

Cheryl Sucharski provides professional marketing services and project assistance to Why Not Marketing and other agencies and organizations.