Eight Tips for Successful Proofing

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Explore:  Legal Writing

IMLA Appellate Practice Blog - November 13, 2013

Careful proofing is as important as excellent writing. Errors and omissions slip into briefs so easily, especially if several people are working on it. There are many good tips for proofing, all best employed a day or more after the writing is done:

  1. Print and proof the document in hard copy;
  2. Read the document aloud, forcing yourself to acknowledge each word, or read with your finger pointing at each word;
  3. Never try to proof for everything at once—proof the text, then the headings, then the caption and ending;
  4. Proof separately for any attachments, exhibits, appendices or other separate matters that need to be with the document—are they there, are the numbers correct, is each what the text says it is?;
  5. Always do the math—if the document contains any calculations, do them again; add up the columns; do the subtraction; be sure the numbers are correct in the right alignment;
  6. Check proper names, company names, addresses, and the like. Be especially sure the names of the judge and your client are spelled correctly. Judge MacBride does not appreciate being identified as Judge McBride.
  7. If you know you make a recurrent type of error, search for it separately. You may be able to have the computer spellchecker catch many types of errors, such as pubic for public and trail for trial, by removing the word that is likely to be undesirable from the dictionary.
  8. Don’t trust the auto-correct dictionary. For several years, for example, the dictionary in one major word processor automatically corrected “tortious” into “tortuous.” Unless your eye is on the word at the moment it auto-corrects, you are unlikely to discover the substitution until it is embarrassing.


* This blog post was originally published in IMLA Appellate Practice Blog, November 13, 2013. Republished with permission. Visit www.imla.org/blog to read additional IMLA Appellate Practice Blog posts.