Common Writing Errors to Look Out for When Proofreading

When writing for academic or business purposes, there is so much to consider. How best to present your research, what the best messaging will be, and if it will all pay off, are just a few things.

The last thing we want is to put all our efforts into a document, an essay or a specific communication, for it to be published with lots of tiny mistakes.

We’ve picked out four key areas where common writing errors can occur. This way, you know to look out for them when it comes to proofreading your work.

American Words and Misspelling

Many spellcheck tools are automatically set to detect American English instead of British English. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they will revert to American when suggesting edits.

These tools can only identify so much. Spellcheck can detect what it thinks are writing errors, but a mistyped word which also happens to be another real word is unlikely to get flagged.

Grammar checking tools can step in here, some of which are programmed to understand context. Usually they can pick up unusual word placement, such as the small differences between ‘off’ and ‘of’, ‘and’ or ‘an’. It would be naïve to rely just on this, though. Not all recommendations will be relevant to your messaging, so question each suggestion before simply accepting it.

The people behind the Oxford Dictionary have compiled a list of the most common misspellings, which you can use to get started.

Remember, too, that numbers are just numbers to a computer. An incorrectly typed number is highly unlikely to be picked up.

Business Documents

The impact of publishing a business document without having checked for common writing errors like this could have detrimental effects. It sounds extreme, but imagine the different reactions between these two statements:

Company X is not offering 35% off any new TV packages.

 Company X is now offering 35% off any new TV packages.

These statements are polar opposites but are writing errors which could easily be made and missed by spelling tools.

Think about the impact. One could entice a load of interest, whereas a claim of no offer is unlikely to do so.

If creating an extensive company document which is filled with financial information, facts and figures, check every single one.

Academic Writing

When writing for an academic audience, the level of intellect indicates that correct spelling is required. It may even be specified in the marking criteria of assignments that marks are awarded for correct use of the English Language. In this case, it is vital to make sure there are no typos or words in American English.

Referencing is crucial for assessment and plagiarism purposes. Making sure you write the correct names and dates when referencing will help boost your originality score and set you in good stead for points in that criteria.

Punctuation and Grammar

While a correctly placed comma may not be the difference between a grade or a sale, there is value in punctuation. A good grasp of both punctuation and grammar can make a document appear much more trustworthy and professional.

You may have seen the example depicting the difference punctuation makes:

            Let’s eat, Grandma!

             Let’s eat Grandma!

Business Documents

Accurate messaging is key in business communications of all kinds. As shown in the example above, the tone and intent can be changed massively by omission of punctuation.

Academic Documents

Often in academic writing, paragraphs and sentences can be long and complex. Good use of punctuation and grammar can help to simplify intricate information for easier consumption by the reader.

Quickfire Punctuation Tips

  • Commas
    • Used to break up sentences and are perhaps the most used punctuation mark in all kinds of writing
    • Use commas to separate adjectives, to offset non-essential information, when demonstrating individual items in a series and after an introductory element
    • For example – If, however, you would like to…
  • Colons
    • Bring attention to something that comes after them
    • Can join two independent clauses and often used to introduce quotes, summaries or lists
    • For example – Just the essentials: bread, milk and tea.
  • Semicolons
    • Used to separate items of equal grammatical weight, such as two independent clauses which have as much value as each other
    • Can be used to separate items in a list when one or more of them already includes a comma
    • For example – Email me tomorrow; we can catch up then.
  • Apostrophe
    • Show possession, form contractions, make plural and show omissions
    • For example – don’t, class of ’97, James’

Misunderstanding of Words

There are some words which we naturally assume we know the meaning of. Occasionally, these words might not necessarily mean what we think.

We have some usual examples: advice versus advise, practice versus practise, stationery and stationary.

Some sound the same when said, others look very similar when typed.

If you are unsure about a word, try looking for a synonym to see if the suggested words match up to what you believe the word means. It would also be beneficial to keep a dictionary close when both writing and proofreading. This way, you can check not only which spelling is correct, but the true meaning of the word in question.

Business Writing

As well as misunderstanding on the writer’s part, there is also scope for misunderstanding from a reader’s perspective. The use of jargon and buzzwords may be loved by internal advocates, but for a customer or a prospect, it can look pretentious or just difficult to understand.

Be aware of who the audience are. Decide whether the use of these words is necessary, and if the messaging is tailored to the needs of the reader.

Academic Writing

When it comes to academic writing, there are a multitude of approaches to research, analysis and presentation of results. Make sure you use the right words to describe your approach, and that you also take time to understand any new academic language you learn along the way. It is a lot easier to use new words when you are confident in what they mean.

 Referencing and Links

In both business and academic documents, there is a requirement to reference any sources which have been used in collating your work.

Business Documents

Whether you are proofreading a document to go online or to print, you should make sure that any links and images are correct. Links, obviously, only apply online. Make sure every link works and links to the right thing.

If you owe any photographers or artists recognition for their work, or if you have used an image from a different company or brand, make sure they are identified properly.

For any branding guidelines which need to be followed, check closely that they have been adhered to, even down to font size.

Academic Writing

One of the most important components of academic writing is referencing. No matter which type of referencing system your institution uses, you must stick to it and do it correctly.

Incorrect referencing can lead to issues with plagiarism. Make sure that names and dates both in the text and in the list of references, are spot on.

Proofreading Services

 If you would like a professional proofreader to review your documents, please get in touch for an instant quote. We are able to ensure that your text is not only free from spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but we also check syntax, sentence structure and are able to recommend improvements and suggestions that may be relevant to your work.