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Check if or check that? Or: Have you tried turning if off and on again?

How often do we read or write that we should check something? Example: "Check if the computer is connected to power." Clear message, no misunderstanding. But what if it says: "Check that the computer is connected to power." more ...

Ten questions for Ines Lasch, intern at parson

Ines Lasch just finished her vocational training as a technical writer and is doing an eight-week internship at parson. We asked her ten questions. more ...

Vocational Training for Technical Communicators. How Does it Work?

Anja Schiel, trainee, and Ulrike Parson, CEO of parson AG, offer their insights into the vocational training for technical communicators. more ...

Make Technical Documentation Intelligent - From Content Management to Content Delivery

In this article, Martin Kreutzer and Ulrike Parson describe how you fill content-delivery portals with intelligent information so that users quickly get the right answers to their questions. more ...

parson's mentoring program

You sent the job application and the interview went well. Now comes your first day at work. Everything is strange: colleagues whose names you immediately forget, business processes, the ERP system. Even the coffee machine doesn't work right away. And where was that meeting room again? more ...

Be nice. Strategies of a proofreader

We create documentation in several steps: We interview the experts, process information, create terminology, write, rewrite, and translate. Before we publish a text, we proofread.

But finding errors or inconsistencies in your own writing is sometimes difficult. Another pair of eyes can help. This is where I come in.

Fotolia 46241978 XS© Anatoly Maslennikov. Fotolia.comI read a document with respect to style, structure, and consistency. I recommend linguistic changes. I correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

I find a lot: typos, repetitions, or missing transitions. I find too much detail, too little detail, wrong commas, and fragments. I am merciless. I am strict. I get paid for it. I raise questions and I nag. I sense if the author did not know what exactly is going on in the engine he or she is describing. Occasionally, I play dumb. Who says that the audience knows as much as we do?

There are many strategies and recommendations for proofreading. Not all of them may suit you. Most of them work for me. I hope that you find them useful:

  1. Focus and avoid distractions. Proofreading is a demanding task and needs your full attention. Focus on one sentence at the time. If you try to take in too much information at once, you might miss inconsistencies or other errors.
  2. Be suspicious. Don’t trust a word you are reading. Also do not make assumptions. If you are not sure whether the information you are reading is correct, do some research or ask an expert.
  3. Reread. Read everything at least twice. I am always surprised how many errors I find in the second or even third round.
  4. Create a routine. I like to read the text first with respect to content, style, language, structure, and consistency. Second, I check spelling, grammar, and commas.
  5. Read aloud. I can better examine a complex paragraph when I read it aloud.
  6. Create variety. Proofreading can be hard, tedious, and frustrating at times. Interrupt your work when you feel that you cannot focus anymore or when you lose interest. Try to work on something else. Or go for a run. That helps me.
  7. Be nice and show respect. Sometimes, we tend to be overcritical or point a finger. Even if you are frustrated, make sure that your criticism helps the author. Respect the author’s work and intentions.
  8. Be passionate. Become a grammar nerd. Keep up-to-date on the subject. Read blogs and books about language, grammar, and style.

I am sure there plenty of other strategies. We would like to hear from you. What works best for you?

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