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!