Proofreading really should not be viewed as an optional extra when it comes to business communications. Your credibility and professionalism are called into question every time you produce an error of this kind. Once or twice in a blue moon can be forgiven-we all make mistakes-but more than that, it just looks sloppy.
Proofreading your own writing is difficult, because you are so close to the material. It is much better to have another person look over it, and ideally, that person should understand the rules of spelling, grammar and syntax. A professional proofreader doesn't have to cost a lot, and they bring expertise as well as fresh eyes to the job.
Failing that, print out the copy, take it and a pencil somewhere quiet, and go over it slowly. Proofreading requires concentration. Do it after a good break from the writing, preferably after a night's sleep.
Make several passes through the document to catch different things: spelling, extra/missing spaces, consistency of terms or headings, etc. A good trick for catching spelling errors is to go backwards through the text, looking at each word. To catch clumsy phrasing and other errors, read the whole thing through out loud. Check headings, links, names, phone numbers and addresses. Use a good dictionary and thesaurus for checking words, meanings and alternatives.
Publishing or posting well-checked copy is worth the effort, since it reflects on your business. Printed disasters can be pulped, but online communications stay on the web for a long, long time, and will turn up any time someone Googles you. It's good to keep that in mind every time you write something online, even if it's only a tiny comment.
(c)Linnet Good 30 June 2009. Linnet Good, of Goodscribble, is a copywriter, editor and desktop publisher. You are welcome to reproduce this article, but please acknowledge the author. No editing/omissions/additions to the article text without prior approval. Linnet can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.