You know what feels terrible? Sending an email and immediately noticing a glaring error.
My two kryptonites are missing and leftover (extra) words.
Each problem stems from a different stage of my writing process. The missing words occur when my mind gets ahead of my fingers. Sometimes, I’ll reread the sentence and still not notice anything is amiss.
The leftover word problem occurs when I revise a sentence and mistakenly keep a word or two from the original. These extra words can turn a perfectly good sentence into a nonsensical mess.
Luckily, a few simple actions keep embarrassing errors like these from slipping through the cracks.
1. Pause before clicking "send."
Most sloppy errors result not from ignorance but from rushing your work. One way to slow yourself down is to enter your recipient's email address last. If you quickly hit "send" without a recipient, you'll get a reminder that your work isn't done. Use the warning as a cue to return to the message and perform one or more of the following checks.
2. Read your work aloud.
This strategy is among the handiest tools in an editor’s toolbox. You’ll be amazed what your ear will notice when you read your work out loud, both from a style and correctness standpoint.
3. Read your work from end to beginning.
Disrupting your usual reading routine helps you concentrate on individual words and punctuation. This fine-tooth process is especially helpful for proofreading.
4. Ask a peer for help.
When you get too close to your work, you may miss errors hiding in plain sight. A fresh set of eyes will help. Before you publish important workplace writing, always have one or more trusted peers review it. Support the review process by giving context about your project and your own writing habits.
5. Double- and triple-check names and facts.
Misspelled names and distorted facts are among the most serious errors in business writing. Take the extra time to check each for accuracy.
6. Use checklists.
Checklists help you concentrate on one element at a time. Create your own by listing common writing problems or use the trait-based checklists from Write for Business.