Proofreading isn’t only about grammar, it’s also about how your document looks. Granted, grammar is most important because if someone tries to read your document and it is full of mistakes, they will either quit reading, get their red pen out and make corrections to send back to you, hang it on the company bulletin board with errors circled, email it to their friends, make it a Grammar Giggle, or just think that you must not be very smart or you don’t care very much. None of those options are good. If your document is grammatically perfect but has other issues in the way it looks, it will still be a problem. Here are some things to look for to make sure your accurate document is also pretty:
- Is the document evenly spaced throughout or does it go from double to exactly 24 in different paragraphs?
- Does the size of your font change? This is harder to see when it is only one point off, but if you highlight the paragraph and look in your toolbar, if it doesn’t match, the font size will be blank.
- Are footnotes all the same font size and same line spacing (including any spacing before and after the footnote)?
- In numbered paragraphs, are numbers consecutive? Check both paragraph numbers and numbered items or lists inside paragraphs.
- Are margins the same throughout the document?
- Are paragraphs justified or not? Whatever the preference is is fine, just make sure all paragraphs are the same.
- Are headings actually centered? Check to make sure your indentation is flush with the left and right margins.
- Are headings all the same style? If your first headings are in all caps, make sure all headings at the same level are in all caps.
- Are the caption, signature, and service list all correct? In our office, we have a “caption” file set up on the system that, theoretically, a drafter would use to start a document so all of that information is correct. Realistically, attorneys often grab another document from the system and start there, so if things have changed, it may not be reflected.
- In a letter, is the date correct? Again, with authors grabbing another letter on the system as a base, the date could be days, months, or even years old.
- Does the salutation match the inside address?
It isn’t difficult to make sure your document is accurate and looks good. That is the impression you want to give the reader, isn’t it? What specific areas do you have to watch to make sure good work product goes out the door? Leave a comment so others can learn from you too!
My granddaughter brought her yearbook over to show me this weekend. I started thumbing through it and was unbelievably discouraged at the multiple (as in more than one, more than two, I stopped counting) errors. Even if the school itself didn’t put the yearbook together, it has their name all over it and represents their school, so SOMEONE should have at least looked at it to make sure it was correct. Maybe the sixth graders should have proofread it. My son asked me not to post a link on the PTO’s Facebook page, so I will just use it for Grammar Giggles (or perhaps Grammar Groan is more appropriate). But I couldn’t resist using the page that had my beautiful granddaughter’s picture on it (since I had my choice of every page of sixth graders) even though it showcases my number one grammar pet peeve–apostrophes for plurals!
I found this on Twitter and have removed the details to protect the . . . ridiculously stupid. This proves my point that proofreading headings and captions is just as important as proofreading the guts of a document. Apparently, there were many grammar errors throughout this document, but I couldn’t get past the first heading. And just think about what the judge who gets this document thinks. Actually, I believe they think this document is not worth wasting time reading.
Time for some quick tips:
- Cannot or can not? While Grammar Girl says either is correct, the Gregg Reference Manual only uses cannot. The only time to use can not is where can means “to be able” and is used with not only
- I can not only see the movie, but the sound is so loud, I can hear nothing else.
- Capitalization of city and state.
- Capitalize city only when it is actually part of the name of the city or part of an imaginative name
- Kansas City
- the Windy City (Chicago)
- the city of Phoenix
- Capitalize state only when it follows the name of the state or is part of an imaginative name
- Washington State
- the Grand Canyon State
- state of Arizona
- Do not capitalize state when used in place of the state name
- None is/are. None is a singular pronoun in formal usage, but in general usage can be either singular or plural, depending on the number of the noun.
- None of the job positions were filled.
- None of the programming was working correctly.
- Two, to, and too. For some reason, people seem to struggle with which of these is correct in their sentence.
- Two – represents a number.
- She ate two bowls of cereal.
- To – toward
- He went to the doctor’s offce
- Too – more than enough, also
- He wanted to take his cousins to the zoo too.
- Last, but not least, proofreading isn’t just about typos. When you are proofreading, proof the details, but make sure to read the text to make sure it makes sense and conveys the story correctly. Don’t make edits because you think a word is wrong without making sure that your suggested replacement makes sense.
At a restaurant in San Diego for the Region 8 conference, I saw this entry on the menu. Thank goodness it’s Main Lobster and not Secondary Lobster!
Apostrophes have uses other than to show possession (see Apostrophail!). The other main use is in a contraction to show where letters are missing. In that case, the apostrophe is placed exactly where the letters are removed and no period is used unless the word is at the end of a sentence.
- you’re = you are
- don’t = do not
- he’ll = he will
Do remember to respect a company’s preference when they use an apostrophe in their brand name, i.e., Cap’n Crunch, Dunkin’ Donuts.
There is even a proper format for the apostrophe in a contraction. You should use the single closing quotation mark NOT the single opening quotation mark. When the apostrophe is at the beginning of a word, you will probably get the single opening quotation mark as you type. To remedy that, type both the opening and closing single quotation mark and delete the opening mark. This, of course, isn’t a problem if you use the straight quotation marks, only if you use the curly quotation marks.
Another area of confusion is decades. To correctly type a decade contraction, it is ’80s not 80’s. The apostrophe represents that the “19” is missing from “1980s” and not that the 1980s owned something. Using “80’s” to represent that decade is incorrect.
Remember, however, that in the legal field, contractions are not frequently used. Contractions are used in less formal writing, which doesn’t often happen in a law firm. But if you must use a contraction, please use the apostrophe correctly.
Sometimes a comma just shouldn’t replace the word “and”
While most sources did say that “although” and “though” mean the same thing and can basically be used interchangeably, I was able to find a bit of a varying definition for each word:
Although = even though and in spite of the fact that
- Although he was the best worker at the plant, he did not get a raise.
Though = however
- The dog didn’t bite him, though.
Although and though are used interchangeably so often that it is now acceptable to use though in formal writing although some people (typically old school learners/practitioners) may not like it. I have to admit that I don’t like it and change it every time, but will now rethink that practice unless the definitions above make a difference (see below).
There are, however, times when although and though cannot be used interchangeably.
- At the end of a sentence.
- The car is cherry red. It doesn’t go very fast, though.
- With “as”
- She acted as though she was the boss.
- With “even”
- Even though the team gave it their all, they lost the championship.
Otherwise, you should be able to use either although or though in your sentence.
- Although/though there was not a cloud in the sky, rain was smearing the windshield.
- NOTE: While this sentence would be correct either way, if I’m using the definitions above, I would use although – “In spite of the fact that there was not a cloud in the sky, rain was smearing the windshield.”
- The job sounded like a dream job although/though the pay was not very competitive.
- NOTE: In this sentence, either word would work even with the definitions – “The job sounded like a dream job in spite of the fact that the pay was not very competitive.” AND “The job sounded like a dream job however the pay was not very competitive.”
So go forth and use either although or though with wild abandon, though you need to remember the exceptions.
I found this on Twitter. The thing that is most disturbing is that this person proofreads the school newspaper but can’t spell “principal.” That does not speak well for the quality of the newspaper.
The last Grammar Giggles had a glaring error in it. I knew when I started this gig that my audience was going to be one of the toughest out there, but decided to go for it anyway. The people who follow me have been much more than kind when I do make a mistake (yeah, it happens). One of my friends sent me a very nice email with a great graphic to ask me if she was correct and I was wrong, I’m going to use her “infographic” as my blog post this week. In the Grammar Giggles, it said that something “was easier then trying to explain.” “Then” should have been “than.” I have lots of things I can blame it on, but it was wrong and I knew better. Thanks to Stephanie for being so nice about my error and giving me a great example for a topic for this week.
“Then” has an element of time.
- He ate dinner and then decided on dessert. (After dinner the next thing in time that happened was deciding on dessert.)
“Than” refers to a comparison.
- He would rather take the light rail to work than drive to work every day. (Comparison between riding the light rail and driving.)
Grammar Girl says to make it easier to remember, note that “then” and “time” both contain the letter “e” and “than” and “comparison” both have the letter “a.”
I will take more time to read my posts rather than a cursory review so that the entries are then correct.