Proofreading a legal document comprehensively is key when drafting legal contracts and agreements, as even the smallest of errors can have big consequences. One of the first things to make ensure in any legal document is that it is easy to read and has a natural flow and clear structure. Also it is better to proofread from a hard copy than from a desktop screen. If the fonts are too small, then take the time to enlarge them so it is easier to read.

Ensure that your legal document is consistent. We know that different businesses have different in-house writing styles with regards to the layout, font type, size, paragraphing and the choice of words to capitalise. For instance, some prefer words like ‘Claimant’ or ‘Defendant’ to begin with a capital letter, also some others may prefer certain words or phrases to either be in bold or italics.

There actually is not any approved grammatical reason why this is the case; it is just a style that different people adopt. Make sure that you stick to your business’s style of writing throughout the document. Not being consistent is likely to happen when there are several people working on a particular document who may end up adopting different writing styles. As a result, when the whole document is finally brought together as one, the inconsistencies can be spotted very easily. This does not leave a good impression in the mind of the reader.

Common Omissions

(a)          Ensure to check for formatting errors, for example, the margin may not be properly aligned or a tab may be in the wrong place.

(b)          Always make sure that your typing goes back to normal after using the bold or italic function for a few words or sentences.

(c)          Ensure that the numbering is in the right order and that they are in sync with the relevant text. Footnotes and endnotes should also be properly numbered so that they are in line with what they refer to in the main body of the text.

(d)          Once you open brackets or inverted commas, ensure that they are closed afterwards.

(e)          Look out for casting and rounding up errors as regards to figures. Names, dates and addresses should be correctly written too. Whenever you are typing numbers with plenty of zeros, ensure that you are typing the right number.

(f)           Make sure that there are no large gaps at the end of your pages and that there are no headings at the bottom without any texts underneath.

  • Confusing Words

There are some words that sound and look alike but have different meanings e.g. principal/principle; affect/effect, practise/pracitce. Ensure to pick the right one.

Whenever you are proofreading a legal document, try to always have a dictionary beside you. There are also some good ones online that you should consider using. Always ask questions when in doubt – it is better to cross check your document properly before sending it out so it does not end up having avoidable mistakes. There is also the option to use an outsourced proofreading service, such as Express Proofreading. Such services specialise in proofreading documents to ensure that they are free from grammatical errors.