Pretty Is As Pretty Does
One of the important pieces of proofreading is making sure your document looks good (in addition to being accurate). Here are some tips for aesthetically pleasing documents:
Avoid widow and orphan lines. Those are the single lines or words at the top of a page (widow) or at the bottom of the page (orphans). In a Word document, use the para widow orphan control feature to keep widows and orphans away.
Check to see if the entire document is justified or not justified. Particularly where there is a lot of cutting and pasting or several people working on the document, you may see that some paragraphs are justified while others are not. Consistency is what matters. Decide which to use and make sure all the paragraphs are that style.
Is the spacing even? Some paragraphs could be double, some could be 24 space, some could be 1.5 lines. To some people, that would all look “close enough,” but to someone checking how a document looks, it will be noticed (and judges and opposing counsel may well notice it too).
Are the margins even on every page? Make sure the margins match paragraph to paragraph and page to page. Something I see a lot is where someone pulls the right-hand margin in for a quotation and it does not get changed back to the original margin.
Do the headings line up at the same tab stop consistently throughout the document and are they numbered consecutively? This is an important step in the process. Sometimes one last run-through just to check paragraph numbers is worth it. It is much better than opposing counsel objecting to a paragraph because there are two paragraphs numbered 3 and no number 5. It is best to set up styles and number that way, but no matter which way you go, at least check it.
Are the headings that are supposed to be centered actually centered? If there is a tab set on the same line as the heading, it will center between that tab and the end of the line. Be sure to check there are no tabs set on that line.
If you, the author, or the client insists that a document line up with pleading paper line numbers, try to get it there. It takes time and can be highly frustrating, particularly if there are headings that are single spaced when the body is 24 space, but you can get close. And it really does look much nicer to have it all aligned with the numbers (and it is easier to refer back in a subsequent document to a page and line number if necessary).
Following these steps will help you have a document that looks like someone cared enough to make it look right—because YOU cared.
Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.