As a former journalist/production editor for a small company on a limited budget (thus the dual role), I can't emphasize enough the importance of not proofing your own material; trust me on this. Ask a colleague to review your material. If you don't have a colleague, ask a friend. If you don't have any friends, ask your six-year-old who just learned how to read "Dick and Jane." Anyone but you will do!
I've always prided myself in being a good writer and editor and proofreader. But I can't be all three on my own work—believe me, I've tried. I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y.
For example, I once volunteered to produce my church's newsletter while the secretary was on vacation. Even though I knew it was crazy for me to think I could fit this task into my already-busy schedule, my hand shot up into the air before I could stop it.
I kept putting the task off and putting the task off until the wee hours leading up to 5 p.m. on a Friday—the deadline for the completed newsletter to be handed over to the pastor, who would then Xerox it for Sunday distribution.
I remember being so stressed in those hours I spent pulling the newsletter together. My neck hurt. I felt a headache coming on. I took some Motrin. I made a pact with myself that I would start walking around with my hands in my pockets, so they would be the last ones in the air if a volunteer was needed.
I finished the newsletter and read over it two times to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Perfect! I was quite satisfied with my work and mentally patted myself on the back as I drove to the church office. I had pulled off yet another tight deadline—I was good!
I walked into the pastor's office and as I handed the newsletter to him, I glanced down at the first page and the main headline jumped out at me, almost mockingly:
Lent: Focus on Prayer and Medication
Ugh...The hand that had been mentally patting me on the back mentally thumped me on the head! The main headline should have read "Lent: Focus on Prayer and Meditation." Fortunately, the pastor...and that Sunday's congregation...had a sense of humor.
How could I have missed something so obvious? Because my mind-set was "I don't make mistakes." And you probably think the same way! If you want to test this out, just type something, anything, and focus your attention on crossing your T's and dotting your I's. Let no mistakes get by you. After you've proofread your material, hand it off to someone else and give them a red pen. I guarantee they'll find something.
However, in a pinch (such as finding yourself stranded on an island with no one to proof your document), READ THE DOCUMENT FROM END TO BEGINNING AT LEAST TWO TIMES. And even then there's no guarantee you'll catch everything. Your message in the bottle could read: "I'm on dessert island. Send kelp!"