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Proofreading a Business Letter

"Proofread" means to read a text carefully to check it for errors and general tone. You should always proofread a business letter before sending it.

The most important thing when proofreading any document is to read the text out loud. Print the letter rather than read it on your computer screen. Make notes where your letter sounds awkward. If possible allow one day between writing and sending your letter. You are more likely to spot any typos or other errors with a fresh eye. (If you have to respond to an important email on the same day, write it in the morning and proofread it after lunch.) Use a spell-check function on your computer program if possible. Computer programs are useful for pointing out passive sentences, subject-verb agreement problems etc. However, be careful when using grammar-check programs. Sometimes they will highlight a phrase that is not actually an error. If you are in doubt, try to simplify the sentence by using a sentence structure that you are more comfortable with.

If possible, ask another person to double-check your letter. You could offer to return the favour for your colleague and become proofreading partners. You can even use standard proofreading marks to make it easier to explain necessary changes. Type "proofreading marks" into an internet search engine, and send the list to your fellow proofreader.

Checklist

  1. Did you read the letter out loud?
  2. Did you allow some time to pass after writing the letter before proofreading it?
  3. Are your requests, needs, concerns clear?
  4. Are there any long sentences that need to be broken into two?
  5. Do you use we incorrectly?
  6. Do all questions contain a question mark?
  7. Did you include the date?
  8. Did you spell the recipient's name correctly?
  9. Have you used a standard business format (e.g. block)?
  10. Have you used passive sentences that could be changed to active ones?
  11. Have you used standard spelling? (e.g. British English or American English)
  12. If it is an important letter (e.g. a cover letter for a resume), did someone else read it for you?

Self-Assessment Test

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