This article was originally published on the blog of Rodelle VA.

Did you know that your brain can autocorrect?  Have a go at reading this:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. 

Understood it all, right?

That’s because this is a recognised cognitive condition[*] called “Typoglycemia” which simply means that our brains can make sense of misspelt words, and that proficient readers don’t read words one letter at a time.  Pretty cool huh?

Not so cool if you’re writing important correspondence, blogs, or press releases though.

We’ve all been there; written a piece, checked it 100 times and through blurry eyes doubted the difference between past and passed, affect and effect, or their and they’re.  Then spent time pondering whether that needs a bracket, a comma, or should it be a semi-colon?  Frankly, you’re unable to see the wood for the trees – perhaps a touch of Typoglycemia kicks in – and the biggest risk is that all of this could distract you from producing your best writing.

Writing is hard – as it should be – the harder it is for the writer, the easier it is for the reader.  As a reader, even if we can make sense of misspelt words it’s still pretty distracting (which is precisely the tactic I used in my post to get your attention).  Time spent wading through clunky writing is time wasted on getting the message of your writing across.

Whether you think good grammar and spelling are important or not, you will probably be judged on it by the grammar police, not to mention a misplaced comma can entirely change the whole meaning of a sentence (there’s my legal background kicking in!).

Throughout my career, no matter how many people have checked and signed off an email, document or press release, there is always the possibility of a mistake being missed, or a fact not being right, or of the words not flowing so, even if up against a deadline, I have never sent anything out without checking it “just one more time”.  That last read-through has very often exposed a sneaky hidden error and, in turn, saved some blushes.

To that end, I believe that my experience has given me a good set of proofreading skills, so I thought I would share some of my tips here:

  • You will need a fresh pair of eyes (spectacles are encouraged) and a quiet place to concentrate – turn the radio, TV, or kids down;

  • Take your time to read every single word (aloud if others can bear it) to check the flow of the text.  With punctuation in the right places, it should be smooth and easy;

  • As you read you are checking for consistency (even with relatively small things like capitalisation) accuracy in grammar, spelling and punctuation;

  • Be mindful of US / UK spellings;

  • Always check that names are spelt correctly and that hyperlinks work;

  • Checking the formatting should be the last thing you do after all the changes have been made;

  • Repeat.

Or you could just ask your Virtual Assistant to do it!

If nothing else, do open those blurry eyes up to the importance of proofreading.  Considering it as best practice guarantees professionalism and extra marks in everything you or your organisation produces – and handing the job over to someone else frees up your time to concentrate on the all-important content.

You never know, it might also be the antidote to Typoglycemia!

Ps. And yes, I am grimacing as I press “Publish” and praying there are no mistakes in this…I’ve only read it 99 times…

[*] tongue firmly in cheek as to whether it’s been medically recognised, however.


This article was written by Lyndsey Shelley, Director at Rodelle VA Services Limited. They provide experienced and professional Virtual Assistants on a 1:1 and pay-as-you-go basis.

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