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« "The Most Fun You Can Have with Your Clothes On" | Main | What is Web Usability? And Why You Should Care . . . »

Proofing your Work On Paper

There I was ... in the beautiful town of Hasselt, Belgium.  If anyone is looking for a nice getaway just east of Brussels, this is the place to go!  In the middle of winter the smell of Belgian waffles fills the streets.   On weekends, people from all over Europe come to Hasselt's wonderful boutiques to shop.

I was in Hasselt to keynote at the European Air Show Council Convention.   After my presentation, I was feeling really good about the information delivered to the delegates.  A British gentleman approached me afterward with a few comments.  He pointed out an error on one of my slides.  My first reaction was, "is this guy joking with me!?!?"  My presentation had been proofed several times. "There couldn't be any mistakes."  But, there was indeed a grammatical error on one of my slides.  It was an embarrassing moment.  I spent weeks preparing my presentation. It had been double, triple, and quadruple checked.  How did I miss such an obvious mistake?

Has something similar ever happened to you?   Or, have you launched a brand new web site, only to have someone email you about a mistake?  It happens far more often than we'd like to admit.

I believe the problem is that too many people try to proof their work on the computer screen.  Our eyes are not optimized to proof materials on a monitor. Computer screens induce significantly more strain on our eyes.

What's the solution?   Proof your articles, web sites, or presentations on paper.  Print a hard copy, grab a pen, and check your work.  I can read something a dozen times on the screen and completely miss a simple mistake.  When I check it on paper, it's much easier to detect errors.

Be sure you build redundancy into your proofing.  After you've completed any corrections, enlist the help of friends.  Send friends an email and let them check over your work.   In many cases, your friends will take some time out of their work to help.  For them, it might be a nice break from their daily routine.  Your friends are looking at your work with a fresh set of eyes.  When you look at something too many times, it becomes routine and you easily miss mistakes.

In conclusion, be sure you review a hard copy version of your work.  After you've completed your review, get some friends to help you double check the work.  In doing so, you can probably save yourself some embarrassment in the future.

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