Proofreading involves much more than checking and correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation. Creating consistency within one document or several is an important part of proofreading. Let’s look at how documents might lack consistency and what we can do overcome this issue.
Proofreading spelling and word usage
Correcting for consistency when proofreading can be especially important when several writers have contributed to a document. For example, one writer might write programme while another might write program. Both are acceptable in Australia, but you need to choose which spelling you will use throughout your documents and publications. Once you have decided, you can use the Find and Replace function in Word to make the term consistent throughout the document.
Acronyms are another thing that should be checked for consistency when proofreading. Do you use full stops in your acronyms or not (for example, I.T. or IT)? Most current style guides call for no punctuation in acronyms but you will want to choose your preferred style.
Proofreading dates and numbers
One writer might express the date as October 25, 2012 while another might write 25 October 2012. To create consistency across an organisation’s publications it’s necessary to communicate the approved style.
Another example is expressing spans of time (such as a financial year). Would you write 2011-2012 Annual Report or 2011-12 Annual Report? Either option would be correct, but one needs to be selected and kept consistent throughout the publication.
Proofreading bulleted lists
If your documents and publications have bulleted lists, they need to be in a consistent style. If you don’t know the accepted style conventions for bulleted lists in Australia, read our post on Editing and Proofreading Bulleted Lists.
In a larger document or publication, headings help readers navigate and find what they need. When proofreading, ensure that heading styles are consistent. If most main headings are in 16pt Arial while some are in 14pt New Times Roman, it can confuse your readers when they are trying to find information in your documents. One way to avoid this is to set up heading styles in a Word template. But you will still want to check the headings when proofreading because the template styles might not have been followed.
These are just a few points to consider when proofreading for consistency. Creating a style guide will help you achieve consistency in your documents and publications, especially when different writers are contributing to them.
If you are not familiar with style guides and what they include, here’s an example of a writing_style_guide from a government department.