Proofreading 101


Imagine you’ve just started proofing the layout for your annual report. The text has dozens of donor names that must be spelled correctly. Feeling stressed? We can help! We have asked Mistina Picciano, our lead copywriter and owner of Market It Write, to supply some tips on effective proofreading. For more information on Mistina’s services, visit

1. Is there a step-by-step procedure you use for proofing?

When proofreading, the following system works well for me:

  • Print the document. It may sound like a pain, but we read words differently on screen than on paper. It’s easier to catch errors on a hard copy.
  • Read the words aloud. You’re more likely to catch errors if you approach the document one word at a time, and you can find rough spots that don’t flow well.
  • Check the details. Make a list of hard-to-proof but critical items, like name spellings, addresses, telephone numbers. If the document is in its final printer-ready layout, look at spacing, headlines, etc. Proofreading typically focuses on the words, but you’re often the last set of eyes before the project goes to print.
  • Make corrections and proof again. This step comes with a caveat: We can only proofread something two or three times before we start missing errors. Then, it’s time to hand the document off to a fresh pair of eyes.

2. When in a project should proofing take place?

Proofreading should be the last step before going to the printer. Once everything is exactly the way the client wants it and you’re getting ready to go to press, that’s when you proof.

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3. How important is it for someone unfamiliar with the copy to proof it?

Absolutely imperative. As we proofread, we’re training our brains. After two or three passes, we know what the text is supposed to say, and we automatically see what we think should be there. I specifically remember a white paper where no less than six pairs of eyes had read the document half a dozen times each, and no one saw a misspelling in the first paragraph–until after it went to print.

4. Any other tips for successful proofing?

Proofreading is the time to let your obsessive-compulsive tendencies shine. Check for extra spaces between words. Make sure your typographic styles are consistent. (Do you use em dashes or en dashes, with or without flanking spaces?) Double- and triple-check names, email addresses, telephone numbers, addresses.

And use standard proofreader’s marks. If you reinvent the wheel and use made-up marks, you risk having your changes misinterpreted. A guide to them can be found here.



More than 100 years ago, the felt hat makers of England used mercury to stabilize wool. Most of them eventually became poisoned by the fumes, resulting in nervousness, irritability, and strange personality changes — thus, “mad as a hatter”.

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LevinsonBlock is a Brooklyn-based healthcare marketing agency that specializes in mid-sized organizations. Our clients include healthcare providers such as FQHCs, disease foundations, and healthcare technology firms.
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