START with This: Quick, Cheap, and Dirty Proofreading Tricks

by Mandi Stanley, CSP


Years ago when I authored a seminar firm’s one-day How To Be a Better Proofreader learners’ guide, I titled this page “Quick, Cheap and Dirty Ways To Proofread.” The editors strongly suggested (ha!) an alternate title, but the proofreading practices remain the same. Use the START acronym as a reminder:

S – Spellcheck. Of course, we never should trust spellcheck—and don’t even get me started on auto correct. But spellcheck never hurts for catching obvious typos and bloopers. We simply can’t count on it for one-letter-off typos, however. I feel certain several of you have some spellcheck horror stories!

T – Tag team. This is partner proofreading at its finest. The originator reads aloud from the dead copy while the proofreading partner follows and corrects the live copy. For lengthy documents such as annual reports, policy manuals, or procedural guides, this approach is a significant time saver.

A – Approach line by line. We’ll demonstrate this as part of the “Newspaper Proof” technique at IAAP Summit 2017 in New Orleans. Suffice it to say: This one is a game changer!

R – Read aloud. Folks, our eyes are pitiful editors, but our ears are excellent editors. Use this approach for emails BEFORE you press send.

T – Take a break. Learn the value of a 20-minute gap between editing and the final proofreading of a document. This break doesn’t mean you walk down the hall and talk with colleagues about what you have been working on all day. Do something totally unrelated. Get a breath of fresh air. Pick up lunch. Return calls. Check emails. Twenty minutes later you’ll have fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

Want to learn more about being a true partner where you work? Come out to my session at IAAP Summit 2017 entitled Proof it! How to Be a Better Proofreader. Register today and attend the best conference for office and administrative professionals.


Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley specializes in proofreading workshops for organizations. She began her career as a classified ad proofreader for a small newspaper in the South—where she made every proofreading mistake in the book! A move to Dallas, Texas, led to a full-time position as a technical proposal writer for a healthcare firm. She soon parlayed those experiences into the opportunity to train others to be better writers and speakers. Learn more at If you wish to follow, Mandi tweets for business @MandiStanleyCSP but uses Instagram to capture funny family moments @MandiStanleyCSP.


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