Proofreading – do we really need to do it? by Gerard Armstrong

So now you have learnt all the rules and irregularities of spelling; surely that’s enough, isn’t it? Well, it’s clearly important, but before you can send off that email, document or comment, it pays to make sure that you have checked it for any possible errors there may be.

Why? People will know what you mean though, surely? Well perhaps so, but that’s not always the point. Proofreading for errors can help to give the audience, whoever it may be, a good impression of our grasp of the language.

Like it or not, if the text we have written, is riddled with errors, it can give the reader a certain impression that we would not have wished to create. For example, when writing a job application, we want to show ourselves off in the best light possible, especially if we are being measured against others. It’s not fair, because making spelling mistakes does not mean we can’t be good at that job, but hey, that’s the way a lot of bosses think!

It’s not just spelling mistakes we need to be on our guard about. We should also be aware of making sure that we have said what we meant i.e. in terms of grammar and punctuation. Again, it’s not a fair situation, but leaving out the full stops, apostrophes and commas can actually change the meaning of the text without us even realising. It may be old hat, but a perfect illustration is the two different sentences about the panda:

1/ The Chinese Panda eats shoots and leaves.
2/ The Chinese Panda eats, shoots and leaves.
The first sentence is a mere description of the animal’s dietary requirements, but the second is a description of what it might have done if it were equipped with a gun after walking into a bar! All that difference caused by one little comma……….

Of course, there are more serious examples than that, but again, if we are trying to convey important points or arguments in the texts or documents we are writing, then it is pretty vital to be confident that it all flows well and makes the best possible sense.

In this day and age of predictive text, who knows what extra word may be suggested by our phone – a word we really didn’t want in the first place!

I can see some readers becoming hot under the collar while reading this and thinking “How long is all this extra proofreading stuff going to take me?” Well, the answer is, really not that much longer. It’s a question of reading and checking as you go along, perhaps paragraph by paragraph, just casting your eye and scanning your text for all the things mentioned above . The more you do it, the quicker it will take you – promise!

proofreading spelling

About Gerard Armstrong
UK based teacher, Gerard, has 25 years teaching, writing and proofreading experience. He has successfully worked on a wide variety of texts, ranging from student essays and dissertations, through to business documents and websites, teaching materials and novels. He's based in Leeds and can be found on his Facebook page Armstrong Academics and email address