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7 Tips on How to Proofread Pleadings

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Proofreading is important. Whether you're trying to catch problems with your argument or just fix an incorrect subject verb agreement, if you don't proofread, you might miss something important or just appear careless to the court and adversaries.

Ideally, it helps to have someone you trust proofread your work before you submit it to the court or to your boss. But if you're stuck proofreading yourself, the following tips can help you catch errors.

1. Don't Do It Right Away

If you've just finished drafting a pleading, before you get right to proofreading, take a short break. If you can spend an hour or more on something else, great; if not, at least spend a few minutes doing something completely unrelated. Check your personal email, take a walk around the office, or check in with a colleague.

2. Bottom to the Top

When you proofread, especially your own writing, it is easy to get carried away. You wrote it, so you might not see when an "of" or a "the" is missing. And because you wrote it and know it, your brain might just glance over the obvious mistakes all lawyers make.

If you read paragraphs one sentence at a time, going from the bottom of a paragraph to the top, you'll be able to focus on each individual sentence, and will be less likely to make the errors that happen when you get carried away by the flow of your poetic prose.

3. Newscaster Voice

We've all seen the evening news, but not all of us know that trying to mimic a newscaster while reading out loud is a really good proofreading trick. Nightly news anchors, especially on national news programs, tend to be rather articulate and speak proper English. If you can close your door, try this trick. It's fun and it works.

4. Print It Out

Reading your pleading on a computer screen is okay if it's short, but if you have more than 10 pages, printing it out can be really helpful. Often allegations will refer to other sections, and it is often easier to just be able to flip back and forth between paper pages to ensure you have consistent language.

5. Do It Again

After you've finished proofreading, take a short break, then do it again. After all, you're filing it with the court, and while courts may not be extreme sticklers for grammar, syntax, or semantic errors, it can matter at least for your reputation. And if you push it, you can get sanctioned for making the wrong kind of mistake -- like changing your client's name on a boilerplate pleading.

6. Do It Again Until It's Error Free

If you found an error in the last proofread, take a short break, and proof it again. Keep repeating this process until you proof it through entirely without seeing any errors.

7. Let Your Computer Read It to You

If it's late, a trick that can be rather helpful is using your computer's text-to-speech feature, or maybe your smartphone's digital assistant like Siri (email it to yourself and ask Siri to read it to you). Just about every modern computer today is equipped with text-to-speech. Basically, have your computer, in its computerized voice, read you your pleading while you follow along. Incorrect wordings will be rather apparent, and you can fix them as you hear and see them.

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