Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Submit flawless, polished documents

You need to submit flawless, polished documents, but the demands on your time are great and lead to typos and regular “oops” moments. The solution? Create a revision system and stick to it. Here’s a sample.

  1. Start Beforehand. The secret to consistently catching your mistakes is to know exactly what those mistakes are. Begin by setting aside a document, Blackberry memo screen or even a simple notebook in which to note recurring mistakes. Doing this gives you a self check list, which we’ll revisit in a moment.
  2. Use Technology. Immediately after you finish a document, run a simple grammar and spell check. I’m not advocating a complete dependence on these methods by any means, but use them to catch the most glaring of mistakes and typos.

Walk Away. Now, I know (trust me, I know) that you might not feel that you can afford the time to walk away.

But it’s necessary. In a pinch, you can start working on your next project, but in reality it is best to clear the air for a bit.

  1. Use Your List. Remember the list you’ve been making for the past couple months [mentioned in point: Start beforehand]? The one we referenced in step #1? Now is the time to get it out and start checking. I’ve even known some writer to format their list with checkboxes, make multiple copies, and keep a cache of them ready to go.
  2. Do a Read Aloud. You’ll want to either read aloud yourself, or use software designed to read your words back to you.
  3. Get a Second Opinion. I like to have an up and coming proofreader on retainer to provide my second set of eyes, but in a pinch, a spouse or cube mate works just as well.
  4. Print It Out. My last step is always a final read over with a hard copy. In fact, I often change rooms in order to complete my last revision. By mixing it up and getting out of your comfort zone, you can jog your brain enough to find that one last elusive little typo.
That’s it. Of course not every system is right for every writer. Find what works for you, and stick to it!

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