You’ve completed your assignment and now you’re about to hit send, share the document or place it in an in-tray.
But are you sure everything is right?
It can pay to check, check and check again. Mistakes don’t look good and you want to create a good impression.
If you’re an assistant with a team or someone else to assist you with that, you’re probably a rarity.
Newspaper reporters have sub-editors and editors to check their work, add pictures and create the headlines.
Filmmakers, videographers and documentary makers all have editors to piece together the action, interviews and ‘cutaway’ footage.
An American TV series scriptwriter may have all kinds of input, from the Showrunner to writing peers in the room, to fine-tune the words until they’re as sharp as a knife.
The professional assistant is more likely to have to check things on their own.
Here are some ways to review your work or document.
If you have created something for your organisation, or a client, check you have the brand ‘look’ right.
Have you used the correct brand colours? Is the logo in place and does it feature everywhere it needs to be?
If there is style, for presentation and design, has that been followed accurately?
Meet the House Style
Your organisation or the client may have a particular way they want a document written. This is their house style.
It may include rules about layout, particular words and phrases to use (or to avoid).
Review what you’ve produced against that house style.
This is something that’s done by publishers before a book is released, by magazines before an article is printed and by sub-editors before news stories are put out.
It’s also what the professional assistant will do with each document they work on.
Proofreading can cover things like formatting. If you want to get that or creating style sets mastered, I have an online course for that.
But the three priorities in the proofreading process are spelling, grammar and accuracy.
Microsoft Word has a built-in editor, which allows you to review documents. There are also spellcheck and grammar functions you can take advantage of.
Having an online or physical dictionary to hand is always a wise move. And there seem to be more and more computer-based writing assistants to help with grammar. One of the more well-known examples is Grammarly.
The way most people check their work is by scanning down the text and looking for errors.
That might help with spelling and grammar but there is a better way to review what you have written.
And that is to read the piece out loud.
When you do this, you get a much better sense of the structure, the tone, the pace and how the words flow.
You’ll notice any bits where the writing sounds clunky or if a sentence is too long for comfort.
This is a tip used by professional copywriters to improve their copy before sharing it with clients.
It works. Try it and see for yourself.
Let the Words Breathe
Another copywriting tip shared with me to help assistants, is to allow extra time for writing tasks if you can.
You may have been asked to create an E-book or lead magnet in Word, for example. Or perhaps a white paper draft or a report.
The idea is that when you’ve finished writing you stop.
Don’t send it straight away. Leave it to look at, either later in the day or the next day. Ideally, give it 24 hours before reviewing and proofreading.
This is like when cooking a roast and you take the meat out of the oven. You don’t carve straight away. You leave the meat to rest a while. This improves the flavour.
It may not always be possible to wait a day, perhaps because of deadline pressures. But even if you can leave things a couple of hours and come back with fresher eyes, that is better than nothing.
Know Your Microsoft Applications
Microsoft Office applications help the professional assistant to get the job done. Efficiently, accurately and productively.
Knowing what each tool gives you to assist with reviewing and proofreading your work helps.
If you’re unsure, take an individual online course or go all-in with a complete package, such as The Hub.
Knowledge and practice lead to improved confidence. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to spot and correct errors, and to improve the quality of your work.
Develop Your Process
How you approach projects and tasks says a lot about how you are as a professional assistant.
The same goes for how you review and refine your work.
If you haven’t already, create and map out the process you use for writing and editing assignments.
Use that process each time, to build consistency. If you find a tweak that helps, add that in as a stage. You’ll end up with a step-by-step way to tackle anything that is put your way.
If working with clients, it’s also something that may be worth promoting as something that differentiates you from the rest of the field.
People will love the attention to detail and would probably pay more for the likelihood of a better outcome.
What process or tips do you use to check and double-check your work?