Here a Resource, There a Resource, Everywhere a Resource

The best way to improve your proofreading skills is practice. But there are other resources available to help you learn or refresh your knowledge of grammar to improve your proofreading. Here are resources that I use regularly:


1.  The Gregg Reference Manual. (Available at This book is always on my desk (AND on my Kindle app) and is the first place I go when I need information. There are also some worksheets available if you really want to get your “learning” on.

2.  A dictionary. With all that is available online, there is no reason to misspell a word or not know what the word means. In addition, not only will define a specific word for you but gives you a word of the day and various quizzes to help you improve your vocabulary. There is always a hard copy dictionary as well. Every desk should have access to a dictionary–either book form or electronically.

3.  A thesaurus. I use the one that is part of Microsoft Word, particularly when I’m not sure whether the word being used is correct, such as affect/effect. It also helps if you’re not familiar with a word to make sure that it is being used in the correct context.

4.  Black’s Law Dictionary (or a more portable legal dictionary). I have a Barron’s Law Dictionary on my desk so I can prove to an attorney that it is statute of limitationS (among other legal words) or to look up a legal term that I don’t understand.

5.  Microsoft spell checker and grammar checker. While this is certainly not the “do all be all” of grammar, it can be helpful. Just don’t rely on Microsoft. As great as the Word program is, sometimes the operator has issues all his/her own. For instance, I have a terrible problem typing doe snot instead of does not. Since both doe and snot are correctly spelled, it doesn’t come up as an error. If I didn’t actually read the document, that kind of error would not be caught. The grammar checker can also be helpful but, again, is not enough.

6.  Websites. There are lots of websites, blogs, and other online information available. As with all things Internet, however, the authors of these websites and blogs are not incapable of making errors, so get the information and check it against another resource if necessary. My personal favorite is Grammar Girl ( Some other fun sites I have found are Grammar Bytes ( and Grammar Slammer (, although I’m sure there are plenty of others out there. Of course, I hope Proof That Blog ( is on YOUR list of resources.

That’s my short list. What is on your go to list of proofreading resources?


Grammar Giggles – Memorial Day!

Today I’ll start with thanks and undying gratitude for all those who serve our country so we can be free. I cherish my freedom and am thankful to all members of the armed services who make that available to me, including my dad, who served in Korea.

Now, since it’s Monday, here is another Grammar Giggle from a Twitter post. Enjoy your Memorial Day celebrations–just don’t do anything e-leagle!


Accurate AND Pretty!


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!


Grammar Giggles – Elementary School Yearbook’s

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!

School yearbook

Grammar Giggles – Pleadings and Headings

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.

Pleading header

Quick Tips


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
      • She works for the state.
  • 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.




All ’bout Deletions Using Apostrophes

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 areApostrophe
  • 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.