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Editing

  • Common errors, Editing, Writing

    Which or that: how to choose

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    Which or that: how to choose

    Do you get frustrated trying to work out whether to use which or that? 

    A lot of people find it confusing, so you’re not alone. 

    Let’s look at it here with examples.

    Which and that can both function as relative pronouns – don’t lose interest because I used a grammatical term.

    Bear with me and I’ll show you the difference between these two words.

    But first, let’s break it down and look at what a clause is and what a sentence is.

     

    There are four types of clauses – but there are two things they all have in common.

    They all contain a subject and a verb.

    A subject is the person or thing being described or doing the action.

    A verb is a ‘doing word’ that expresses the physical action, a state of being or a mental action.

     

     

    A sentence is a group of words that has a complete meaning within itself.

    It typically contains a subject and a predicate

    (the part of the sentence that contains the verb saying something about the subject),

    and it conveys a statement, command, exclamation or exclamation.

    A sentence contains a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

     

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    There are two scenarios to consider

    When it comes to making a decision about which or that, there are two scenarios to consider.

    You need to work out whether the relative pronoun – which or that – is introducing a non-essential relative clause or an essential clause.

    1. WHAT MAKES IT ESSENTIAL (THAT)?

    An essential relative clause is one that is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    If we take the essential relative clause out the sentence it will be affected.

    In fact, the sentence won’t make sense or be complete without it.

    For example – The passenger boarded the bus that was filled with tourists and suitcases.

    In the sentence above ‘that’ is introducing the essential relative clause.

    It contains essential information about the noun that precedes it.

    So if we remove ‘that was filled with tourists and suitcases’,  the sentence won’t be complete or make sense.

    This is how we know to use ‘that’ and not ‘which’ – the information after ‘that’ is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    ‘That’ is an important indicator of an essential clause because it introduces important details to the sentence.

    The computer that Jack left at the sports shop turned up at his house today.

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    2. WHAT MAKES IT NON-ESSENTIAL (WHICH)?

    Now let’s look at non-essential relative clauses and the role of ‘which’.

    Non-essential relative clauses contain added information that can be left out without affecting the meaning of the sentence because it’s considered decorative and non-defining.

    For example – I noticed the garden was full of pastel-coloured roses, which were perfumed and lovely.

    If we leave out ‘which were perfumed and lovely’, the sentence still makes sense. It might not contain as much information, but it still functions as a sentence. 

    Sometimes the non-essential clause is in the middle of a sentence, not at the end of it.

    For example – I went to see A Star is Born, which starred Lady Gaga, and I thought it was great.

    In this sentence ‘which starred Lady Gaga’ is the non-essential relative clause.

    It can easily be left out of the sentence without affecting the completeness or the meaning.

    Sure it leaves out some interesting information – but it still functions as a sentence.

    This is how we know it is a non-essential relative clause and we should use ‘which’ not ‘that’.

    There is one vital detail that must be considered when using ‘which’ for non-essential clauses in sentences.

    A comma should always precede ‘which’ unless it is preceded by a preposition (in, to, on, after, for, with, under etc). 

    For example – The church, which was being rebuilt, was not open for visitors.

    Note:  it is also okay to use spaced en dashes instead of commas.

    For example – The church – which was being rebuilt – was not open for visitors.

     A sentence with a non-essential clause with have either two commas framing it or one comma and a full stop.

    Today I walked to the market, which was five blocks from my apartment.

    Today I walked to the market, which was five blocks from my apartment, to buy some mangos.

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    Which or that? Some tips to help you decide

    If you are trying to work out whether to use which or that, try inserting a comma before ‘which’ and if it doesn’t make sense you know to use ‘that’ instead.

    The Prime Minister was in a meeting, which required the attendance of the Minister for Health. (Incorrect)

    The Prime Minister was in a meeting that required the attendance of the Minister for Health. (Correct)

    Inserting a comma above before ‘which’ shows us that we’re using the wrong word, but if you substitute which for that the sentence doesn’t require the comma and is more meaningful.

    Illustration of man and woman discussing which or that

    Remember, if you insert a comma before ‘which’  does the sentence still make sense?

    If it doesn’t, it means you should replace ‘which’ with ‘that’.

    For example – The shop that sells fresh flowers is always preferable to one which sells chocolates. (Incorrect)

    For example – The shop that sells fresh flowers is always preferable to one that sells chocolates. (Correct)

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    Using which or that incorrectly can change the entire meaning of a sentence

    The Australian Government Style Manual provides the following examples to demonstrate how using which or that incorrectly can change the intended meaning of a sentence.

    The research findings that were likely to cause embarrassment were never circulated.

    The sentence above makes it clear that the research findings not circulated were the ones likely to cause embarrassment.

    The research findings which were likely to cause embarrassment were never circulated.

    The sentence above is ambiguous – were all the findings withheld or just the embarrassing ones?

    The research findings, which were likely to cause embarrassment, were never circulated.

    It’s obvious that none of the recommendations were circulated.

    In the first example, the use of ‘that’ makes it a defining or essential relative clause – so it provides defining, essential information that defines the subject.

    The second example is ambiguous and you shouldn’t write sentences like this.

    The third example, with the pair of commas framing the clause, is a non-essential relative clause.

    The information inside the commas is decorative and not essential to the main point.

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    Deciding whether to use which or that should be clearer now.

    It’s like the two cups of coffee in this photo. They appear to be the same, but there are subtle differences that could get you into trouble.

    If you drink your coffee out of the cup on the right, you might be bargaining for more than you can manage.

    Overhead shot of two cups of coffee demonstrating which or that.

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    If you’d like to chat to me about writing or editing, including optimising your content for Google, please reach out to me via the button below.

  • Common errors, Editing, Writing

    9 common errors every writer should know about

    Woman in theatrical pose with her hands on her head looking shocked and embarrassed.

    9 common errors every writer should know about

    Hitting the wrong key can explain away a typo, but using the wrong word can damage your credibility as a writer.

    Here are nine common errors I come across in my work as a professional editor.

    You’ll find explanations and examples to help you use the correct words from now on.

    1. Do I use 'I' or 'me'?

    This is one of the most common errors in English usage.

    TIP – A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. For example – using she instead of the name, Louise.

    RULE – If the pronoun is the object of the sentence, then use I – otherwise, use me.

    EXAMPLE – Could you join Louise and me for dinner?

    TEST  How do I tell if the example above is correct? Simple. Take Louise out of the sentence and it reads – Could you join me for dinner? It wouldn’t have worked as ‘Could you join I for dinner would it? That’s because I is never the object of a sentence.

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    2. Who or that

    Another common mistake is using who when that should be used – and vice versa. It’s an easy error to make, but once I demonstrate why it’s wrong you won’t do it again.

    If we’re writing about a person such as your sister, a teacher or any other human, then you would not use that.

    We use who when we’re writing about a human.

    Remember who = human.

    EXAMPLE  The actor, who was my sister’s friend, said he would help raise money.

    TEST  Ask yourself: Is the actor a human or an object?

    If we’re writing about an object, such as a car, tree or office building, then who is not the word you should be using. 

    We use that when we’re talking about an object.

    Remember that = object.

    EXAMPLE – The car was a bright colour that I loved.

    TEST  Ask yourself: Is the car a human or an object?

    3. Between or among

    The general rule is that between is used when comparing two distinct items, people or events.

    EXAMPLE – Two days elapsed between his arrival and his departure.

    TEST – How many days elapsed? Two? Good.

    The rule is that among is used when there are more than two people,  items or events.

    EXAMPLE – The choice was made from among four qualified candidates.

    TEST – Were there more than two candidates?

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    4. Affect or effect

    These two words function both as nouns and as verbs. They’re also commonly confused because they’re so similar.

    To simplify matters there’s a simple rule of thumb that can be used to avoid most errors.

    Affect as a verb has two meanings.

    The more common use of affect is to exert an influence, have impact or bring about change through an action.

    EXAMPLE – Rising interest rates affected the company’s bottom line.’

    In other words, the rise in interest rates had an impact on the financial position of the company.

    The second meaning of affect is to simulate or fake an attitude or behaviour.

    EXAMPLE – For this particular role, the actor affected an Oxbridge accent.

    By contrast, you should generally use effect with an e as a noun to signify the thing that was impacted, influenced or changed.

    Returning to our example we used above, we would say ‘the company’s lower profits are the effect of increased interest rates.’

    5. Practice or practise

    Don’t let the US  spellings confuse you. Americans use practice as both a noun and a verb.

    US EXAMPLE – Doctor James practices medicine at his medical practice on Phillip Island.

    In Australia and the UK there are different spellings for the noun and the verb.

    AUSTRALIAN EXAMPLE – Doctor James practises medicine at his medical practice on Phillip Island.

    Practice is a noun and practise is a verb.

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    6. Using i.e. and e.g.

    Both i.e. and e.g. are Latin abbreviations that are often confused.

    We write i.e. to mean that is.

    EXAMPLE – I am a vegetarian, i.e. I do not eat meat.

    By contrast e.g. means for example.

    EXAMPLE – Citrus comes in many forms, e.g. oranges, lemons and limes.

    Note: These two abbreviations are not generally used in sentences, but are used in tables, captions and brackets.

    7. Insure, assure or ensure

    These three words have one thing in common, but they’re not interchangeable.

    What is it that they all share? It’s ‘making an outcome sure’.

    To insure means to guarantee against harm or loss.

    EXAMPLE – My partner and I will insure our house.

    To assure means to earnestly declare or promise something.

    EXAMPLE – I assure you he’s going to arrive on time.

    To ensure means to make sure or certain something will come.

    EXAMPLEEnsure the papers are posted please.

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    8. Compliment or complement

     It’s surprising how often you see these two words written incorrectly.

    It’s probably more accurate to say that some people use compliment to mean both compliment and complement. 

    Let me explain the difference between the two.

    Compliment is a commonly used word that is used as both a noun and a verb. It can be used as an expression of praise, and also to praise or express admiration for somebody.

    EXAMPLE (Noun) – Penny paid me a compliment when she said my hair looked nice.

    EXAMPLE (Verb) – Nick complimented the chef on the meal.

    On the other hand, complement means something else that completes something, or makes it perfect.

    EXAMPLE (Noun) – My mother used complementary medicine for her allergy.

    EXAMPLE (Verb) – The two colours complement each other.

    9. En dash or hyphen

    This is one of my bugbears.

    If you want your writing to look truly professional, learn the difference between a hyphen and an en dash.

    There are three types of strokes and dashes – hyphens (-), en dashes (–) and em dashes (––). Let’s forget the em dash because it’s rarely used these days.

    A hyphen is a short stroke that’s used within words that are divided.

    EXAMPLE – My ex-husband was wearing a suit.

    A hyphen is also used between words that make up compounds.

    EXAMPLE – His manager asked for a one-on-one chat.

    Note: Over time hyphenated words becomes established and the hyphen can disappear.

    EXAMPLE – We used to write co-ordinate, but now we write coordinate.

    En dashes are the length of an N and are also versatile punctuation marks. They’re used in the following examples in text.

    En dashes are used in number spans in numerals, time and distance.

    EXAMPLES: 

    The date was 13–15 May this year.

    Kate arrived at 5–5.30 pm.

    The road was about 20–25 kilometres long.

    En dashes are also used to demonstrate an association between words that retain their separate entities.

    EXAMPLES:

    They performed a cost–benefit analysis.

    He was holidaying in the Asia–Pacific.

    You can also use a set of en dashes in sentences to replace the commas around non-essential clauses.

    EXAMPLE: 

    The street was closed – which seemed strange – so I looked for my bag in the park.

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  • Copyright, Editing, Grammar, Proofreading

    What does an editor do?

    What does an editor do - yellow background and stack of books
    What does an editor do and why you need one – stack of books on yellow background

    What does an editor do?

    Let’s start with a distinction.

    We’re not talking about magazine or newspaper editors  – the people at the top who are the public face of their publications who oversee teams of writers and editors.  

    We’re talking about the editor at the coalface of individual projects. Those who review, correct and make changes to text in projects such as newspaper and book articles, book manuscripts and website content.

    Within this category, there are a few different roles. Let’s look at some of these below.

    Copyeditors are sometimes called ‘line editors’ and in a newspaper or magazine setting might also be called ‘subeditors’.

    They edit the content line by line for sense, formatting, grammar and punctuation. They also align the text with the agreed editorial style and check for any inadvertent copying from other sources. 

    A copyedit may require a structural edit. Here the copyeditor will look deeper and edit for meaning, flow and sense. They may come back to you and suggest paragraphs be moved or rewritten, or they may question the tone or accuracy of the text. 

    Proofreaders are the last stop in the process. Ideally, a piece of writing has been seen by an editor before it is proofread.

    Proofreaders check all content for typos, grammatical errors, punctuation, page numbers, header and footers, and editorial style. They will also check captions, tables of content, images and headings.

    A good editor will develop a relationship with their author or client and refer to them about changes they’d like to make that are beyond simple grammar and punctuation. An editor should never work in isolation. If they don’t have access to the writer or author, then they should be working from an editorial brief.

    The ‘Australian Standards for Editing Practice set out the responsibilities of professional editors. These include legal and ethical responsibilities, as well as substance and structural tasks.

    “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” – Dr Suess

    Legal and ethical matters

    Editors are trained to recognise content that appears to be written or created by a person other than the writer.

    We can recognise the change of voice. When you’ve been editing for years, it’s very easy to see a different writer at work in your text. It’s like an internal alarm bell goes off.

    Often people don’t realise they’re plagiarising and once it’s pointed out we quickly amend it.

    If the copied content is necessary to the piece of writing, then we look into obtaining permission to republish it.

    Alternatively, we can summarise or paraphrase text from other sources and acknowledge the source.

    It’s usually a straightforward process to apply for copyright permission, and often people are flattered that you want to use their content.

    It’s always courteous to acknowledge content created by somebody else. Think about inserting a link to their site because backlinking will help improve their SEO, as well as your own.

    Permission may not always be needed, and this can be confirmed by checking the terms and conditions on the website where the content is published. 

    A website’s terms and conditions are generally located at the base of their homepage. Also check ‘Privacy policy’ for copyright info.

    Cultural sensitivity and discriminatory language

    Cultural sensitivity is being aware and not making judgements about people’s cultural differences and similarities.

    Context is important when looking at this type of content and common sense is usually applied. If in doubt, professional editors generally have access to a lawyer who can check for them.

    Discriminatory language can sometimes appear in content unintentionally.

    As a general rule, this entails irrelevant references to age, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, accent, disability or any other characteristic a person cannot control.

    An editor will identify any issues they encounter and suggest alternative text.

    Design and formatting

    Experienced editors are accustomed to marking up corrections for graphic designers who, in turn, are trained to interpret and implement the editorial mark-up.

    Editors do not design pages, but they look at all the elements on a page and identify any parts of it that are not working optimally.

    When I was training to be an editor I would imagine a page to be the room of a house and the headings, graphics, images and other elements of the text design to be furniture in that room.

    All of these elements needed to come together in a cohesive, aesthetic way for the page to work. 

    When I was a trainee editor I would imagine a page in a book I was editing to be the room of a house. 

    The headings, graphics, images, and all the other elements of the page were furniture in the room.

    All these elements needed to come together in a cohesive, aesthetic way for the page to function optimally.

    The design also needed to support the text and not inhibit or misrepresent its meaning.

    Drawing of house with tags such as text, captions, photos, headings around it.

    Can you really rely on a spellchecker?

    Spellcheckers regularly get things wrong.

    To start with, you may be checking UK (Australian) English in a US spellchecker.

    So ‘specialisation’ will be marked up as an error because the spellchecker thinks it should be ‘specialization’.

    Spellcheckers check if words are spelled correctly, not whether they are used correctly.

    So a sentence such as ‘Witch one was rite?’ could be assessed as correct.

    Similarly, homophones are troublesome for spellcheckers. So ‘heir’ and ‘air’ could be substituted and missed. So could ‘bare’ and ‘bear’.

    According to Oxford Dictionaries, a spellchecker might not know the difference between ‘socialite’ and ‘socialist’, or ‘definitely’ and ‘defiantly’. It may also confuse ‘public’ with ‘pubic’. Imagine that.

    Grammar and punctuation

    If you’re a subject matter expert you’ll be focusing on the meaning and structure of the content, not relative pronouns and commas.

    It’s difficult to explain complex concepts or review academic research and try to be word perfect at the same time. In these situations, an editor can be a writer’s best friend.

    A good writer–editor relationship is invaluable.

    Have you noticed how best-selling authors often talk about their editors in glowing terms? That’s because they understand each other and are, pun intended, always on the same page. Effortlessly so.

    Grammar usage is always evolving. With every new edition of a dictionary words become extinct and new words are invented.

    Words start to be used as compounds and hyphens are inserted between them. Other compounds lose their hyphens and become singular words. An editor keeps track of all these evolutionary changes.

    It’s a hell of a job knowing a dictionary back to front, but an editor will generally know common usage without referring to the dictionary – and probably has a shortcut on their screen to locate a current usage within seconds.

    An editor will know when to use ‘which’ and ‘that’ – and this small interchange is the difference between amateur and professional content.

    Some people avoid punctuation because they’d rather have an absence of it than an error. If that’s you, consider this sentence:

    “Let’s eat Evelyn,” versus “Let’s eat, Evelyn.”

    If you want to be clearly understood there’s no way around it. You need to learn punctuation rules or hire an editor.

    A typed page of writing with editorial markup shown in red pen.

    Words start to be used as compounds and hyphens are inserted between them. 

    Other compounds lose their hyphens and become singular words. An editor keeps track of all these evolutionary changes.

    It’s a big job knowing a dictionary back to front, but an editor will generally know common usage without referring to the dictionary.

    They likely have a shortcut on their screen to locate a current usage within seconds.

    An editor will know when to use ‘which’ and ‘that’ – and this small interchange is the difference between amateur and professional content.

    Some people avoid punctuation because they’d rather have an absence of it than an error. If that’s you, consider this sentence:

    “Let’s eat Evelyn,” versus “Let’s eat, Evelyn.”

    If you want to be clearly understood there’s no way around it. You need to learn punctuation rules or hire an editor.

    Why you should worry about editorial style

    Style is closely related to consistency.

    If a medical college uses upper case ‘C’ in ‘College’ in all instances, then that style needs to be consistent throughout the content, or the readers become confused and distracted.

    It’s also about saying the same thing in the same way throughout a document. For example, Jacaranda University shouldn’t be shortened to ‘Jacaranda uni’ in the same piece of content.

    You also wouldn’t use ‘and’ and an ampersand ‘&’ in the same document (unless it were in a company name), and you wouldn’t punctuate lists differently in the same document.

    Consistency is important because it builds reader confidence and reduces distractions in the text.

    It also demonstrates clearly that the content has been created by professionals, which is exactly what you want. It’s difficult for readers to trust content when it has errors and inconsistencies.

    Even if the writer is highly qualified in their field, errors can devalue their authority and make them look like amateurs.

    A style guide also clearly defines a brand’s tone and voice. It lets us know the differences between the brand’s usage and common usage – and there are often idiosyncrasies based on the preferences of the people in charge.

    You can download the free Textshop Editorial Style Guide on this page.

  • Editing, Proofreading, Writing

    How to proofread professionally

    Hands typing on laptop keyboard.

    How to proofread professionally

    It’s difficult to proofread your own writing. Even professional writers are surprised when an editor finds a typo in something they’ve read over and over.

    This happens because our brain already knows what we’ve formulated and conveyed through our writing – the meaning – and when we read it over our eyes compete with the version of the story that is already in our brain.

    This is why it’s always best to have somebody else proofread your writing. If you can hire a professional editor or proofreader then you’ll get an even better result.

    After more than 13 years editing and writing for newspapers, publishing houses and corporate businesses, I’ve developed the following process that I use when proofreading other people’s writing.

    Divide the task in two

    When proofreading for clients, I always go through the document twice. I divide it in two because it’s difficult to focus on the structure, flow and consistency as well as the spelling and punctuation all at the same time.

    So during your first read check for the following big picture points.

    • Does it flow? 
    • Are the paragraphs and sentences structured in a cohesive and comprehensive way?
    • Is the argument or story consistent all the way through, or can you see contradictions?

    If you are proofreading somebody else’s work it’s a good idea to keep your level of interference in check. Be careful not to change the meaning of anything the writer has written and, if in doubt, add a comment or question for the writer rather than arbitrarily apply an edit.

    On your second reading, drill down to the word level and check spellings and punctuation. I don’t use a spell checker because they miss homophones and contextual inconsistencies. It’s usually more accurate to check spelling yourself than rely on a program to pick up errors.

    I have an online dictionary subscription and I use this daily. Make a short cut to one and use it to check spellings. Take care to use a dictionary that reflects local spellings. For example, in Australia we use UK spellings and the reference used by publishing professionals is the Macquarie Dictionary.

    Synonym finders are also invaluable. When a word is overused, copy it into a good synonym finder, locate a word that means the same thing and substitute it occasionally to avoid repetition.

    Ask if there’s an editorial style guide

    Find out if there’s an editorial style guide that applies to what you’re writing. A style guide can range from a few pages to 25 or more pages in length.

    If you’re writing for a company ask them if they have a style guide. It will contain the preferred spellings and expressions they use. This is especially important for things like lists and capitalisation. I always read a client’s style guide before commencing an edit or proofread, and then refer back to it throughout the process. Every company has its editorial idiosyncrasies, and it’s best to know these upfront.

    Often the client will ask you to use a commercial style guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style, or, if you’re in Australia, the Government Style Manual. This is great because it gives you a reference point.

    You can also download our Textshop Editorial Style Guide as a free ebook on our home page.

    Break your mindset

    The object of this exercise is to find ‘fresh eyes’, so work out the mindset break that works best for you. You need your full concentration to proofread accurately, so be on alert and immediately insert a mindset break if you feel your concentration slipping.

    Go for a short walk. Get a cup of coffee. Grab a bite to eat. Focus on another task for a few minutes.

    Print the document you’re proofreading out in a different format. Change the font size on the screen, or view it on a different application.

    Read it out loud. Read it backwards.

    If it’s a multi-page report or publication, try going to the last page and working your way back. Chances are you’ll need to skim over the content again in context, but changing page direction can be a good circuit breaker.

    Make your own personal checklist

    Write a list of the words you frequently misspell, or grammar and punctuation rules you’re not clear about or forget.

    When I first started working as a professional editor I struggled with the relative pronouns ‘which’ and ‘that’ – and when to use them. I wrote down the rule and referred to it regularly until l knew it without thinking.

    Another style people often have trouble with is whether to use ‘a’ or ‘an’ before words that commence with ‘h’. It all depends on whether the ‘h’ is silent or pronounced. If it’s the latter use ‘a’. You might have to say it out loud to decide!

    You’d be surprised how many books are published with typos that have been overlooked by dozens of pairs of eyes. People who work with text all day are accustomed to skimming over content and looking at the big picture, instead of drilling down to the smaller units of storytelling.

    Don’t just check the words

    A common mistake is to focus on the text and skip over illustrations, tables, captions, titles and headings.

    Always set time aside to go through tables and infographics properly. Don’t glance over them; check every word and number.

    Published documents need to look professional and incorrectly formatted pages can really undo otherwise good work.

    • Are the headings the same size and font?
    • Are the spaces between paragraphs even?
    • Do all tables, infographics and illustrations have captions?
    • Are the page numbers consecutive?
    • Do all the links work?

    Consistency, consistency, consistency

    Believe it or not, consistency is the most important aspect of a professional editor’s job.

    Without consistency the content is fragmented, unstable and unreliable.

    Inconsistency is distracting and makes the reader feel uncomfortable, and if there’s too much of it they lose trust in what they’re reading.

    A writer needs to do a number of things to gain a reader’s trust and convince them they know what they’re talking about.

    Spell something in the same way every time.

    For example – don’t write ‘I co-ordinated the teamwork on Tuesday, so Annabelle could take a break from coordinating.’

    Be consistent with punctuation too.

    For example – don’t switch between single and double quotation marks (unless you’re working with emphasis [single marks] and dialogue [double marks]), and don’t capitalise Director in one instance and lower case it in another when it’s used in the same way.

    Take care with the names of people and organisations.

    Find out the correct spelling and check it is consistent throughout. It’s always a good idea to Google the names of companies and organisations, and write them exactly as they do.

    Consistency extends beyond text and tables. Check layout too because font type and size, colours and formatting all look more professional when they’re consistent.

    Abbreviations and acronyms

    Generally for abbreviations and acronyms we spell them out in the first instance and then use the shortened form from that point on.

    For example – the Australian Tax Office (ATO) is busy doing tax returns this time of year, so when I phoned the ATO they placed me in a queue.

    In longer reports and documents this practice can get messy. If there have been multiple writers you often find that acronyms and abbreviations are written out in full and in short form as well. It can be quite a task to make them all consistent.

    To make it easier and more accurate, I use ‘Find’ and ‘Replace’ in Word to locate and standardise abbreviations and acronyms. Never use ‘Change all’ because you can quickly lose control of the document. Do it manually and check each change individually.

    Find your own rhythm

    Take note of your own common oversights.

    What are your weak points? What are the things you’re likely to miss when proofreading?

    Make a checklist of everything you need to check, such as the list below, and add your own reminders.

    Professional proofreaders are thorough and methodical in their work, and being aware of your own grammar and punctuation weaknesses is essential. Proofreading is not like an exam – you can stop and check anything you’re not sure about and revisit things you’ve marked up for correction.

    If you’re not working in a Word document paste the text into one and use ‘Find and replace’ to check you’ve caught and amended all text you need to correct.

    Lastly, don’t rush proofreading. The effort you put in will be obvious in the published document. It takes time to proofread like a professional, and it’s better to work a little more slowly in the beginning to ensure you don’t miss anything.

    That small error you miss in a proofread can become a major eyesore after publication.

    Proofreading checklist

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