The Proof is in the Pudding: Six Simple Steps to Mistake-Free Writing

Strengthen your writing and your reputation by proofing your “pudding” before you publish it
By Christopher Biddle

Take it from my grandmother: “the proof is in the pudding.”

This delightful idiom means “that the end result is the mark of the success or failure of one’s efforts or planning.” (Thank you to the Grammarist for this succinct definition.)

If your chocolate pudding sinks and is impossibly chewy, your guests will judge it a failure, no matter how much effort you put into it.

By the same token, if you publish an article or blog that is riddled with avoidable mistakes and bad grammar, it will be judged accordingly. Effort doesn’t count.

Fortunately, six simple tools are available to maintain your reputation as a competent, mistake-free writer.

1) Check the Facts: In my 15 years as a daily newspaper reporter and efactsditor, I learned the hard way that it’s easy to get the facts wrong, from dates and names to sourced data. In my first crime-in-progress report at my first newspaper job, for example, I switched the name of the suspect with the name of the detective making the arrest. Except for that small detail, it was a good story.

In addition, call phone numbers and click on hyperlinks and email addresses to make sure they are correct. Furthermore, hyperlinks should always take readers directly to the information referenced. I call this the one click rule.

2) Let It Sit: Unless you are working on an immediate deadline, let your pearl of wit and wisdom sit for a day. Then read it in the morning with fresh eyes. You will find many changes worth making.

3) Print It Out: I once worked for an Association president who proof-read every communication that went out the door. He asked for a printout of the final, final material that other people had already proofed and prodded. He went over it line by line and word by word with a black flair pen. He almost always found something! Try it. It works.

4) Read It Aloud: Before making a final proof, read your copy aloud. This is the best way to uncover awkward sentence structure, confusing transitions, grammatical mistakes, misspellings, etc. This exercise will also give your narrative a more readable flow.

5) Find Two More Eyes: If at all possible, find someone else to proof your copy. Ideally, this person should be an experienced editor, but in a pinch any literate person will do. It’s extraordinarily difficult to proof your own material.

6) Proof It Again: Go through this process more than once. Good writers are fierce editors of their own material, which means they write and rewrite until they get it right. Every time you revise or edit your own material, proof it again!
Biddle’s Bottom Line: The proof is in the pudding, so proof it before you publish it.

Christopher Biddle is President of Biddle Communications & Publications in Moorestown, NJ.


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