Those who know me know that although I’m no grammar genius, I do have a near obsession with proofreading and grammar issues. I can’t drive down the street or read anything for pleasure without cringing at errors. I even got my county to change a street sign in my neighborhood that was misspelled and was driving me crazy every day. I don’t know or understand all of the grammar rules (don’t ask me what a gerund is), I’m not a “wanna be” English teacher (I couldn’t diagram a sentence to save my life), I don’t fancy myself a grammar expert by any stretch of the imagination, I’m just a legal secretary obsessed with quality product leaving my desk. Hopefully the tips in this blog will help others improve their own work product and I encourage you to participate and ask questions about any proofreading issues you have.
My “turn to” resources are the Gregg Reference Manual and all things Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/). I understand there are many other grammar resources out there, but these are MY resources and they are what I will use here.
Now that we have that out of the way — Welcome to my first blog post! The most important thing to remember in proofreading is consistency. Nearly every grammar “rule” has an “exception.” If your boss wants to do things a certain way that might be against the “rule” but fits within the “exception,” do what he or she wants — just be consistent. If you’re using serial commas (which I highly recommend and will discuss another time) or you’re initial capping defined terms, do it throughout the document. Choose your specific style and stick with it. When you care about grammar, it is hard to read a document that has errors, particularly where things are done differently throughout the document. We all hope, of course, that all judges and their clerks care about grammar and we don’t want to distract them from the content of the message because of sloppy delivery. The first time someone reaches for a red pen in their mind, you’ve lost part of your message.
It is much easier to maintain consistency if you can sit uninterrupted and read the entire document at one time. Otherwise, you end up reading part of the document, then turning to something else, then turning back to your original document, all of which will make it more difficult to be consistent. That said, I would love to be uninterrupted long enough to read three consecutive pages at a time. It just doesn’t happen. Sometimes I will make notes about specific things that I want to make sure are consistent. This is particularly important when you have a document that more than one person has worked on or you have several related documents you are filing together. Find what works for you so that the document is consistent. Consistency is what is most important!
Let me know what you might have issues with in your documents. I have a list of my own Top 10 and other topics I come across in my daily proofreading that I’ll work through on this blog, but I would love to hear questions you have. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or examples of grammar horrors that I can use in the future. Thanks for supporting my effort to make proofreading an essential part of every document leaving your office! I hope to see you next time.