More than 100 years ago, Mark Twain recognized that familiarity with your work makes it difficult to proofread your own writing: “…when you think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes & vacancies but you don’t know it, because you are filling them from your own mind as you go along.”
To proofread effectively, then, you must trick your brain into seeing your brief with fresh eyes. Here are a few simple techniques to achieve this goal:
- Set your brief aside for a day or two—or even just overnight. This means that you need to plan ahead. Set a deadline for yourself, so you finish drafting the brief at least a few days before it’s due.
- Don’t rely on your word processor’s spell-checker. Among other things, automatic spell-checking won’t catch homonym errors (there/there, to/two, etc.) or many other errors that commonly appear in briefs (such as the trial/trail error I’m sure we’ve all made at one point or another).
- Change the font or text size. You don’t have to do this in your original document: instead, save it under a different name, then manipulate the brief’s appearance.
- Print it. And, when you read the printed copy, put a ruler or blank sheet of paper under each line to stop your eye from jumping ahead to the next line.
- Read it aloud. Better yet, have your computer read it aloud to you. Windows 10 and MacOS Catalina 10.15 both include built-in screen-reading tools. When you read aloud, you may end up saying what you intended to write; your computer—which doesn’t know what you intended to write—will read what you actually wrote.
If you’d rather have a completely fresh set of eyes, call me today at 914-595-6575 or e-mail me at Lisa@QuestionOfLaw.net to discuss how I can help polish your brief.
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