When you’re copywriting, it’s an idea to distance yourself for a short time, so that when you go back to it you do so with a fresh pair of eyes – and can proofread it more accurately.

Some time ago, while shopping with my children, I saw a scarf I liked in a clothes shop. I was convinced it would go with lots of my tops and I very nearly bought it, only something (probably the amount I had already spent) held me back.

Yesterday, I happened to be in the town centre again and as I walked passed the same shop, I remembered the scarf; this time I went in determined to buy it.

But I didn’t. The problem was, when I saw it hanging up I didn’t like it any more. I noticed it had gold threads running through it. I hadn’t spotted them previously and I really don’t like gold, I far prefer silver (white gold is fine, by the way, if anyone reading this needs to know).

Had I impulsively bought the scarf on my first visit, I would have spotted the offending thread only later and would probably never have worn it or would have taken it back.

In a nutshell, the problem was I hadn’t looked at it carefully the first time and I should have done.

It’s a lesson that can apply to writing too. When we commit words to paper (or screen) we know what we want to say and often fail to spot any errors that creep in. Our brains see what they want to see and not what is actually there. But if we give our writing a ‘cooling off period’, i.e. leave it alone for a period of time then go back to it and reread it, our brains will have forgotten exactly what we had wanted to write and we are far more likely to spot errors.

So by setting copy aside for a while, we are more likely to notice where we put ‘form’ instead of ‘from’ or ‘to’ instead of ‘too’.

It may not be very eco-friendly, but printing out the text and reading it from paper also tricks the brain into thinking it is something new and makes us proofread more carefully.

The best solution of all is to ask someone else to proofread your copy for you. They are almost certain to spot errors and help you make corrections. Then you can send off your letter or newsletter, or publish your online article or web copy, secure in the knowledge that it is word perfect.

A bit like the scarf (had it been bought), you’d have it all wrapped up.

To chat about writing, PR, and – of course – proofreading, please get in touch.