A question I often get asked when delivering my copywriting proofreading training is, ‘What should you do when you need to proofread a document and you’re really short of time?’

Here’s how to do it when the clock is ticking.

OK, let us say it is coming up to half past five in the evening and you need to get something out by email before you leave work at 5.30pm (and tonight, you really must get this thing sent off and you really must leave on time!).

If your document is fairly brief (let’s say a page or two of copy) here’s what you can do to minimise sending it out with typos and mistakes included.

1: Find a friend
Find an office friend, explain your challenge and ask them if they’d be kind enough to give your document a quick proofread while you run through the points below.

2: Have a fresh eye
Now, run your spell check tool and look again at your copy with a completely fresh eye.

A good way to do this is to read it while pretending to be someone else. A good ‘someone else’ would be your recipient.

As you do this, keep an eye on your punctuation as well as your spelling.

Highlight and correct any mistakes.

3: Listen out
Next, print it out and read it out loud to yourself as though you were broadcasting it on the radio.

This will enable you to hear each word, as well as see each word.

As you do this, grab a clean sheet of A4 and hold it over the line below the line you’re reading. Then move down as you read along.

Highlight and correct any mistakes.

4: Change your view
Print out your ‘V2’ but this time with the wording in a funky colour (perhaps orange or lime green) and also in a small and unusual font (squiggly or old fashioned fonts are great for this).

Now grab a pen and read each word out loud again, working backwards from the end.

Underline each word as you go along.

Highlight and correct any mistakes.

5: Compare and complete
Ask your proofreading friend if they have found any mistakes and if they have spotted anything you have missed, make these corrections too.

You’re good to go
Have a last read on the screen and you’re good to go.

Do bear in mind however, that this is very much a last minute proofreading checklist and it is not really a substitute for a full proofreading process.

It will help you however, if you’re really short of time.

Professional proofreading support
Clarify Copywriting provides an affordable, professional proofreading service.

We also write all sorts of business and marketing copy and deliver copywriting and proofreading training.

For details call 01386 830036 or email infoclarify@btinternet.com