The improtance of proof reading: how to choose your sanity checker

How did that headline make you feel about me and this blog? Disappointed? Angry? Slightly smug?

You’re running the risk of people thinking bad things about you and your product/company/brand by failing to proof read your text effectively. It’s not something you can do yourself, so you’ll need to choose a sanity checker.

Would you pay £12 to be taken to St Pancreas? (I think I might… it sounds like a terrifying adventure.) Thanks to Nico (@nfanget) for the photo!

Whenever I’m planning to issue a press release, send out an email campaign or post an important form, I call on one of my sanity checkers to read the text and identify typos. (They earn the name as a result of my reaction to them finding errors: ‘I must be mad to have missed that!’)

I said sanity checkers plural – that’s important. People have to have holidays. People get sick. They don’t all work in your office and live in your house. And if, like me, you produce a lot of writing, you can’t expect one person to check every word.

Choosing your sanity checkers can be tricky, so here are my top tips.

1. Look for attention to detail. It’s no use choosing someone who doesn’t notice typos. See number 2.
2. Test them. Plant a few typos, wrongly placed apostrophes, double spaces. See if they notice.
3. Don’t choose your co-writer/editor. Your sanity checker should not be familiar with the text you ask them to check. That’s the easiest way to miss mistakes.
4. Pick someone who won’t show off. There’s nothing worse than haughtiness in a proof reader.
5. Pick someone honest. It’s pointless having a sanity checker who’s too shy or polite to tell you about typos.
6. Go for a native speaker. In an ideal world, they will be checking their natural language, making it easier for them to spot mistakes.
7. Make sure they can work MS Word. Like it or not, we write using Word. So make sure they understand how to track changes.
8. Check that they follow instructions. You don’t want endless comments and suggestions on your style of writing and argument structure at proofing stage.
9. Favour convenience. Yes, it’s easy to work with someone in Mongolia thanks to the internet. But is it convenient? If you need quick feedback, choose someone who’s awake at the same time of day as you.

What do you look for in a sanity checker?

2 responses to “The improtance of proof reading: how to choose your sanity checker

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