We’ve all seen these tests right? The ones that challenge you to read a paragraph where most or all words are clearly misspelled?
When you easily and successfully read it, don’t you feel smart? I mean a few misplaced letters are no challenge for your superior brain!
This test seems to have originated from studies at Cambridge University designed to determine whether we read using individual letters or from whole words.
Here’s what I think it proves...
We need to be really, really, good at proofreading!
The fact that we can easily read these jumbled texts is a testament to the fact that our eyes and mind work together to make sense of the words. We end up seeing what we expect to see.
We are so familiar with the words and the language that even significant spelling errors can be understood.
So too can basic information like numbers and dates be overlooked when we are so familiar with them that we stop reading.
Why is this important to you?
There isn’t an event anywhere that doesn’t rely on some form of invitation or promotion or advertising in order to secure an audience. Wedding, gala, trade show, corporate conference, advisory board meeting…it doesn’t matter. All use some form of communication in order to invite the guests or participants and often require supporting materials including agendas, programs or guides.
And it’s important that this information be correct!
I mean…do we really want folks showing up on the 15th when we meant the 16th? Do we want to insult our internationally renowned guest speaker and their sponsor by misspelling her name? Or do we want attendees to arrive expecting to pay a $20 entrance fee when the price is really $25?
All real scenarios. All costly errors.
Time, money, hassle, trust, reputation…all very serious repercussions of information error.
All easily avoidable.
Here are some tips to help you with your proofreading:
1. Run a spell check. Even if there is very little copy i.e. an invitation. (Don’t laugh…it is remarkable how many people ignore or skip this step!) This ensures you will capture any obvious spelling errors. If the copy wasn’t created in a program that allows for spell check, cut and paste it if possible. This is a good first step but it cannot be relied on entirely as it obviously doesn’t cover dates and names etc. If you can’t run a spell check, the following options are even more important.
2. Read the text back to front. This makes you focus on one word at a time. (It works!)
3. Read the text like a first-grader using your finger to point out each word as you read it.
4. If you are working online, print the copy to read. We skim a little less reading from paper.
5. Have others read it. Choose at least one who is not familiar with the text. If you are overly familiar with the text it is entirely possible to keep re-reading the same mistake over and over again without recognizing it. If dates are involved, give a sample that you know to be correct to your proofreader so they can check.
6. Have someone read it out loud to you or someone else. (Ideal if the person reading doesn't know the information.) Read it out loud to yourself even. Often we are more specific with what we see when we need to say it. This is particularly good for catching errors with numbers or dates. It’s also a good way to catch awkward sounding text.
7. Check the main copy and then check the headings separately. These are easily skipped in the proofing process.
8. Since names cannot be spell checked, have someone read out the name letter by letter to ensure correct spelling.
9. Be extra diligent with copy that is smaller or in italics.
10. Proof separately for spelling, grammar, layout and dates. Focus on one at a time.
11. You cannot check dates and times enough. For example if you are proofing a speaker schedule, run through the time slots separately from checking the speaker names. It’s easy to be so focused on making sure the speaker information is correct that you miss the fact that they are speaking at 2:30 and not 2:00.
12. Try to leave time between creating the text and proofreading it. Fresh eyes are better!
Always allow time for proofreading in your schedule. Skipping the process will certainly be more costly than the extra time needed to double-check everything.
Also figure out who in your group has the eagle eye and make them your official proof- reader. There is almost always someone who catches everything! Rely on them and be grateful! This doesn’t mean that you don’t have others check as well but it’s always nice to have someone to rely on who does a great job.
Regardless of how diligent you are in the proofing process it’s still entirely possible for a mistake to escape your notice. I once had a newspaper account rep catch an error in an ad that had been checked by many individuals. We were so focused on dates and some challenging surnames among the list of speakers that we missed a tiny yet very basic word.
Happens to us all.
Just do your very best to prevent it.
Practice and get really good at proofreading.
Not doing so could be costly!
Post by Margaret Johnston, eventswork.com
As a career event professional, Margaret brings valuable insight and knowledge to the recruitment, management and development of high-performance teams for the event industry. A strategic and inspiring leader, Margaret has held executive roles for several global event management companies and key roles in the start up and orchestration of many high profile and international events.
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