Five quick DIY copy fixes

It’s a New Year—time for setting goals, and looking forward with openness and excitement to opportunities ahead. Maybe you’re thinking about learning a new skill or improving on an existing one. No doubt about it, we can always be better and do better.

As I’ve mentioned before, nothing beats having another set of eyes on your copy—preferably, someone with the skill and experience to catch the errors and enhance the writing.

Perfect world thinking aside, we live in a reality of tight budgets and deadlines—and this means we don’t always have sufficient time for someone else read over our work.

Here are five quick fixes you can perform before you click Send on that document:

  1. Global search and replace double space with single space. Back in the day of typewriters (for those of us old enough to remember them), we needed to include two spaces after periods and colons to optimize readability and formatting. Word processing software has made this unnecessary; one space is all you need. Oddly enough, I’ve spoken with folks who’ve never used a typewriter, but still think they need two spaces.

And, sometimes, you may have just hit that space bar more than once in the middle of a sentence. This fix will get rid of those stray extra spaces and tighten up your copy visually.

  1. Look out for widows and orphans. This goes without saying in a caring, sharing society—but what we’re talking about here are widows and orphans in your copy. The last line of your paragraph ends up by its lonesome at the top of the next page/column (widow) or the first line of your paragraph is left alone at the bottom of a page/column (orphan).

Reunite those widows and orphans with their respective paragraphs. Same goes for headings and subheadings left dangling at the bottom of a page/column.

  1. Scan for missing periods. Seems like a simple enough thing, but multiple edits may have changed your phrasing, and you may have neglected to add the appropriate punctuation.
  1. Check your table of contents. It’s relatively easy to format your headings and subheadings to automatically create a table of contents (TOC). However, if you have multiple levels of subheadings, some may have gotten missed and these will be left out of your TOC.
  1. Run a spell check. As I’ve said before, spell check isn’t perfect and will never replace a pair of trained, experienced human eyes. However, it’s a useful tool to catch dumb mistakes you may have missed. Pay attention to what it suggests, though, as it may not recognize things like Canadian or organization-specific custom spelling.

These are among the top—and easiest to fix—copy errors. Give it a go and enjoy the results of cleaner, physically tighter copy.

Happy writing!

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