Don’t you love spotting typos…when they’re not your own?

But typos are painful when they’re yours. They’re especially agonizing when others find them in your Facebook ads, trifold brochures, and other published materials where your credibility is at stake.

Believe me—I’m not perfect. About three years after I built my LinkedIn profile, I noticed I misspelled “communication” in a job experience where I was a proofreader. Seriously.

The problem is that we’re wired to miss our own typos. The message that’s in our brains often overrides what’s really on the page. That’s why it’s easier for others to spot our gaffes.

Therefore, when you can, ask someone else to review your stuff before it goes out. But if you don’t have a proofreader handy, you’ll have to proofread your work yourself. Here’s how to eliminate typos on your own.

  1. Walk away. Then read it again. Time creates emotional space, so your brain is less apt to gloss over your errors.
  2. Read it aloud.
  3. Print it out. Lots will pop out on paper that you don’t see on the screen. While you’re at it, use a ruler to examine your words line-by-line.
  4. Pay attention to headlines! Errors can happen in big print, too.
  5. Force yourself to read each individual word. Put a pen or pencil beside each word to stay focused.
  6. Change the size and font. You can then look at your words differently and thus more objectively.
  7. Read it backwards. Read shorter text (like headlines) backwards word-by-word. Then read longer text backwards sentence-by-sentence. Reading backwards helps you remove context from your message.
  8. Separate proofreading tasks. For instance, check once for spelling and another time for punctuation.
  9. Acknowledge spell check and grammar check in MS Word. Those squiggly lines are there for a reason!
  10. Know your weaknesses. For instance, I tend to repeat small words like prepositions. So I look specifically for those errors. What typos do you typically make?

Remember: You’re human, and the best proofreading practices won’t eliminate all errors. Just do the best you can. Your readers will appreciate how much you care.

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