Document creation consumes a significant portion of every lawyer’s time regardless of practice area—up to 60% of lawyer time is spent drafting documents. And lawyers spend an additional 10 hours per week revising, editing, polishing, and proofreading. But despite this effort, according to Lexis Nexis, 90% of all legal documents still contain errors regardless of whether they were proofread.
Here are 10 strategies to make your proofreading and editing more effective.
- Let Your Document Sit. If time permits, set aside your work to gain distance. Even 15 minutes will help, but it is best to leave it overnight. When you come back to your work, you will see it with fresh eyes and renewed attention.
- Review In Stages. Approach each proofreading and editing task separately. Check spelling. Then sentence structure. Then word choice. Then punctuation. And so on. If you try to identify and fix too much at once, you risk losing focus, and your review will be less effective.
- Read Aloud. It forces you to say each word and hear how the words sound. Whereas reading silently allows you to skip over errors or make unconscious corrections. Reading aloud also helps us discern when something doesn't sound right—even if it’s grammatically correct—and adjust. Try letting Microsoft Word read it to you.
- Take Regular Breaks. It’s tough to maintain focus on detail-oriented work for more than 30 minutes at a time. Schedule breaks before your attention wanes.
- Interact with the Text. Circle confirmed punctuation or place checkmarks next to paragraphs you’ve checked. Interacting with the text helps to keep you engaged.
- Isolate the Text. Use a blank sheet of paper to cover any text that you’ve not yet reviewed. This keeps your eyes from wandering and your attention from shifting.
- Change It Up. If your review is focused on substance, try changing the size, spacing, color, or style of the text so it feels different or unfamiliar.
- Review Headings Separately from Text. Approaching them separately ensures you check both types of text. Reviewing headings alone draws attention to inconsistencies and errors.
- Review Backward. Review one paragraph at a time in reverse order, starting with the last paragraph. It is still possible to review substance at the paragraph level.
- Use CTRL +F. Systematically search through your document for common errors and inconsistencies. This feature will also show you whether you have repeated a word or phrase too frequently.
These 10 strategies will help you work more effectively—but you must leave time to implement them. So be sure to set aside time for revising, proofreading, and editing. According to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, assuming 300 words per page, a person may edit and proofread a document at the rate of 10 pages per hour.
But what if you don’t have that time—or you’re too tired to catch mistakes? That’s where software will make a difference. A computer program never gets tired or distracted—and it’s programmed to know the rules. Software like PerfectIt and WordRake can speed up and improve the tedious task of proofreading and editing.
WordRake provides reliable editing for clarity and brevity using the in-line, track-changes style. It edits for plain language and reduces jargon and legalese; cuts throat-clearing introductory phrases and useless words; corrects nominalizations and wordy adjective phrases; removes redundancies and corrects usage errors; and more. WordRake is the ideal editing solution for legal professionals, businesspeople, and sophisticated writers—and it was chosen by LexisNexis® Pacific for Lexis® Draft Pro. Try WordRake today.
About the Author
Ivy B. Grey is the Director of Business Strategy for WordRake. Prior to joining the team, she practiced bankruptcy law for ten years. In 2018, Ivy was recognized as a Fastcase 50 Honoree and included in the Women of Legal Tech list by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Follow Ivy on Twitter @IvyBGrey or connect with her on LinkedIn.