"Create the Perfect Document in 10 Easy Steps.docx"
Create the Perfect Document in 10 Easy Steps You've written your piece, made changes, fixed any errors, so now it's just about perfect, yes? So in triumph, you print your "final version". As you scan your masterpiece, your jubilation is short lived as you discover yet even more errors. You simply can't understand how you missed them during your earlier "thorough" checks! However, don't be too hard on yourself. There's something weird about working with computer screens that seems to play tricks with the human eye. Or perhaps our eyes have simply had more time to grow accustomed to reading printed publications. Yet as a digital writer who almost always works with a personal computer rather than typewriter or paper and pencil, I hold up my arms and freely admit that I too seem particularly prone to making obvious errors on first and second drafts, sometimes on third and later drafts too. Yet over time, I've learned to develop a method that seems to work best for me. I suggest that you consider evolving your own checking sequence that helps you spot and fix as many errors as you can. To help craft the perfect document every time, consider the guidelines below. The following 10-point checklist doesn't cover every scenario you may be faced with when writing a publication destined for print or the web. Also, if your word processor doesn't have a grammar checker referred to in Step 1, you may want to check grammar separately: If possible, write your documents using word processing software that has a built in grammar checker - such as Microsoft Word. Another excellent option is to use StyleWriter - The Plain English Editor from Editor Software. Of course, grammar checkers aren't perfect. The English language is so complex that sometimes software simply can't make proper sense of a sentence - that is why your experience, judgment and ability to spot errors manually is so useful. However, the key point is, with grammar- checking software, you can identify most grammar problems early on - and provide a fast fix. Run a spell check on your document and correct any errors. When you think you have identified all faults, print a copy of your publication. Draft print copy quality is fine at this stage - you don't need higher resolution print quality yet. Print text quality that is sufficiently clear for you to evaluate your document is all you need. Read the print version of your document slowly - backwards. Performing Step 4 is also often enough to identify a few more errors that for some astonishing reason, you may not have spotted when working on the PC version previously. By reading your document word for word backwards, sentences deliberately make less sense - that's precisely what helps you slow down and focus on the words only. Since your mind is not as familiar with your document when approached in this contrary manner, you're less likely miss any glaring spelling errors. If you have identified any errors in Step 4, mark each error on your print version and then correct the same error on your PC version immediately, before repeating the action on any following errors. Save your updates. Go back to your now possibly further corrected print article, read it aloud slowly and deliberately to help identify any remaining faults or areas where you think you can improve the finish. Curiously, reading aloud seems to helps highlight the writing flow and style better. Perhaps the act of reading aloud forces us to slow down sufficiently to help determine errors or shortcomings that can't easily be spotted using any other method. Re-write or edit any sections identified in Step 6. If you regularly work with an electronic copy on your computer, you may prefer to do this directly on your PC. Again, remember to save your changes often. Run a spell-check again and fix any additional spelling errors. Save any changes made to your electronic copy in Step 7, then stop. Leave your document alone at least for a day to give your mind a rest and to provide a fresh perspective when you next continue to work on your publication. Print a second draft copy from your previously updated electronic version. Repeat the relevant parts in Steps 4, 5, 6 and 7 above and make any remaining corrections and improvements that you consider are required. Print your third draft copy. Ask a friend or colleague to read your article to help establish any remaining errors or points that could be improved. By all means, ask your friend or colleague for their opinion but remember, as the author, you must determine what applies. Make any remaining changes, carry out a final spell-check, then save your electronic version. Print your final copy. Key tip: following an editing checklist sequence such as the one outlined above isn't exciting. It's not meant to be - rather for such tasks, you want cold logic to take over from creative endeavor - and that's the secret here. Completing these simple but arguably boring steps can help ensure you have a perfect document - every time in the shortest time possible - and that's the key benefit