Key Skills and Techniques to Proofread Academic & Business Documents

The skills and techniques required for successful proofreading go hand in hand. One cannot work effectively without the other, and so it is key to know what makes for effective proofreading.


Our time is precious, whether we are the writer, proofreader or, in fact, both. The efficient usage of time is both a skill and a technique when it comes to proofreading both academic and business documents.

Time as a skill

A skill is defined as expertise in something. Having time on your side when planning, writing, editing and proofreading will help you to stay calm and meet deadlines.

Plan to finish writing before the day of the deadline and if possible, give yourself a day or two in order to distance yourself from the work. Revisit it with a fresh head, rested eyes and an analytical perspective.

Time as a Technique

Efficiency is a technique that is learned and can be trained. Take your time both as you write and as you proofread. A quick scan may not suffice, particularly when there are precise details in the document.

Having used the skill of planning your time, now you can use that time to carefully examine the document, be it academic or business focused.


The best work can be done when you are well and truly in the zone.

 Skills Needed to Focus

Find a quiet space where you can avoid distractions. The ability to switch off from everything else that’s going on, from your phone to your email and other notifications, is a skill in itself. Take time out and dedicate all of your attention to a thorough proofread.

Techniques to Keep Focus

It’s one thing being able to focus in general. It’s another to find a focus in the document you are proofreading.

If you start by trying to pick out any kind of error or amendment, it can be too easy to overlook smaller mistakes.

If, however, you focus on one thing at a time, such as punctuation with the first check, then spelling with the second, it is less likely that acute errors will get missed. Having this single focus can also help your concentration as you are only looking out for one family of errors at a time.


There are several useful tools out there to help with checking your spelling and grammar, but they cannot be relied on alone.

What if your brand or discussion topic is an unusual word which gets autocorrected to something else? In contrast, a typo could lead to autocorrection into a completely different word.

Plus, these tools can’t tell if a date or a number is incorrect.

Skills and Tools

Having a good grasp on grammar, punctuation and spelling will help, of course. Sometimes, a grammar or spellchecker may try to suggest a change, when in fact, what is already there is correct for that instance.

Don’t always take for granted what the program says. If you feel unsure of your verdict against the tools’, double check in a dictionary or look for correct examples online. Work through the document with a fine-tooth comb to check for any discrepancies.

Techniques and Tools

There are different things to look out for, depending on the type of document you are proofreading. See a breakdown in the next section of proofreading techniques for different types of document.

Proofreading Academic and Business Documents

Proofreading Academic Documents

As is the case with most academic documents, there will be a specific structure to adhere to. Between different types of writing, from an essay to a dissertation, as well as discipline-specific styles, there can be a multitude of rules to stick to.

Rules in academic writing include the flow and organisation of paragraphs as well as line spacing, fonts, and numbering.

When proofreading academic documents, it is best to have the guidelines with you as you check. Don’t simply look through what you’ve written; make sure that you have followed the rules laid out for what to include, and in what order.

If you are proofreading for a friend or a peer, don’t amend the document directly. Make notes on a separate document or jot some points down. This can avoid any in-text tweaks being overlooked.

Proofreading Business Documents

When proofreading a business document, there can be different points to consider. Instead of complying with assessment guidelines, there will be company and brand guidelines to adhere to.

Company standards and tone of voice must both be at the forefront of your focus when proofreading business documents. These tools are in place to ensure that all communications from a brand are consistent in their messaging and style.

Having the skill to remember the audience is crucial in business documents. Whether the primary customer bases are consumers or other businesses, there are still different audiences within these broad categories.

For example, a prospective client is likely to have limited knowledge about the ins and outs of the business, whereas a shareholder will usually be more invested in the nitty-gritty.

Depending on the audience, decide to either remove or explain jargon. If excess words are there just for the sake of it, take them out. Having the skill to acknowledge the type of communication for the relevant audience will be crucial.

Business communications should be clear, concise, relevant and accurate.

Find Your Proofreading Style

Good proofreading is a skill that is honed through practice and the use of the right tools. There are some popular techniques which are recommended, time and again, amongst proofreading professionals.

Try out each of these techniques and find out which one works best for you.

Print out the document and go back to basics. Get a pen and read through the document line by line, annotating any amendments or uncertainties to be revisited.

Some have even said that reading the document backwards can help. Working back line by line will mean that the sentences are nonsensical, but that each word is clear, making it easier to identify mistakes.

You could also try reading the document aloud. This is probably more suited to business documents which aren’t as long in form.

A Second Opinion

There are a few reasons why it may be beneficial for you to get a second opinion.

Despite best efforts, we can sometimes still read what we assume is correct and miss spelling or wording mistakes. A second pair of eyes may be able to spot those little errors much more easily.

In business documents, it can be easy to get highly invested in what you are writing. While this is great, a second person to proofread what you have written will help to ensure that everything around the topic makes sense. It is also paramount that messaging is clear and completely correct.

After all, if a reader is confused, or the messaging is unclear, consumer confidence could slip. Allow all stakeholders to have the utmost confidence in every communication you send by getting your business documents checked.

Proofreading Services

This comprehensive guide should help you as you work your way through proofreading your documents.

If you are looking for a professional proofreading service, we can cover all aspects from academic to business documents, big or small, here at Express Proofreading.

Get in touch for an instant quote. Our experts will closely examine your documents and give any additional guidance.