Proof Reading Tips

The skill of proofreading is necessary whether you are a student, a professional writer, or someone who creates lots of office memos. No matter the context in which you are writing, there are systematic procedures that you can follow to ensure you produce the best work possible.

There are three types of proofreading: Comparison, content, and format. A comparison proofread may not be applicable to every project you do. It applies to projects in which you have an original document you are copying from. This ‘original document’ could be your own handwritten notes, they could be a typed document that needs to be re-typed because a file was lost, or they could be a document with changes scrawled by hand all across the pages. A comparison proofing requires a word for word, character for character comparison of the new document and the old document. The purpose of this reading is to make sure that the exact same words and punctuation are in both documents. A comparison proofread is the first type of proofing that will take place.

For a content proofread, you may put aside the original document and focus on the new document. At this stage you will be looking for correct sentence structure, logic, spelling, punctuation, and factuality. You will also be looking for consistency. If your memo says, “(s) he would be in violation of company policy” and then later states ” he/she would need to report the incident to the appropriate supervisor”, there is a consistency error. A change should be noted to use either “he/she” or “(s) he” consistently. The purpose of the content read is to make sure the document is correct and reads well.

Finally, a format proofread is performed. A format proofing is just what it sounds like. You are looking for a correct format and consistent format in the document. There are certain formatting conventions that are followed when typing, for example, a business letter. There may also be specific formatting rules when typing a memo for company. An easy way to start a format proofread is to ‘scan the edges’ of the document and look for anything that sticks out and doesn’t look right. Then look at the overall page: Does it look balanced? For example, is the text consistently justified or consistently left aligned? Now scan the document and pay attention to the spaces instead of the words. Take out any extra spaces you find within the text. Finally, this is the time when you will check page numbers and footnotes, if applicable.

Give yourself ample time to go through each of these three types/stages of proofreading for the cleanest most professional resulting document. The following tips will help you do a more accurate proofing at any stage:

1. Always proof from a hard copy. Do not try to proof a document from your computer screen; you will miss many errors this way.

2. When marking the document, try using proofreader marks. If you are unsure of the proofreader mark for a particular correction, write out the change you want to make. Be clear and specific about your corrections, do not simply circle the errors.

3. When possible, do not proofread your own work. You know what you mean to say, so you are more likely to skim over errors. If you are able, get more than one person to proofread your work. Everyone has different strengths and they will find different errors.

4. Break down your tasks. When you are doing a content proofing, the number of things you need to look out for may overwhelm you. It is best to break it down into quicker, more specific proofreads rather than one big proofread. For example, do one proofing for spelling and punctuation, next proof the document for grammatical errors, then do a third content proofing for factuality and consistency.

5. When you are doing a comparison proofread, use a straight edge (such as a ruler or piece of paper) as a guide. If you carefully move the straight edge from line to line on the original document, you are less likely to miss omitted text in the new document.

6. During a proofing for spelling, try reading the document backwards. When each individual word is looked at, outside the context of a sentence, you are less likely to miss spelling errors.

7. After corrections have been made, don’t forget to proof the revised document. First check to see that all the corrections were made, then read over the document one more time to make sure you didn’t miss something the first time around!

Excel Tips: Pivot Table

Excel pivot tables are a feature that you should learn how to use. Instead of analyzing countless spreadsheet records, a pivot table can aggregate your information and show a new perspective in a few clicks. You can also move columns to rows or vice versa. The problem is people believe creating a pivot table is difficult to learn. Grab a seat and we’ll guide you through a short tutorial using Excel 2007 so you can start data crunching. (Includes tutorial in PDF format with larger images and example worksheet.)

What is an Excel Pivot Table?

You might think of a pivot table as a user created summary table of your original spreadsheet. You create the table by defining which fields to view and how the information should be displayed. Based on your field selections, Excel organizes the data so you see a different view of your data.

As example, I’ve uploaded a sample spreadsheet of 4000 fictitious people, which includes the following data fields:

  • Voter ID
  • Party Affiliation
  • Their precinct
  • Age group
  • When they last voted
  • Years they’ve been registered
  • Ballot status

sample excel flat file

Looking at the first 20 voter records, you can see the content is boring. In this format, the key question it answers is how many voters exist in all the precincts.

Using Excel pivot tables, you can organize and group the same data in ways that start to answer questions such as:

  • What is the party breakdown by precinct?
  • Do voters use permanent absentee ballots?
  • Which precincts have the most Democrats?
  • How many voter pamphlets do I need for Precinct 2416?
  • Do 18-21 year olds vote?

Excel pivot tables allow you to group the spreadsheet or external data source by any of your data fields. The thumbnail below shows a count of voters by party by precinct.

blank excel pivot table

Using a pivot table, I can continue to slice the information by selecting additional fields from the PivotTable Field List. For example, I can take the same data and segment by voter age group.

Example pivots table with multiple criteria

Understanding Pivot Table Structures

In the thumbnail above, I’ve labeled the main areas of the pivot table.

(1) PivotTable Field List – this section in the top right displays the fields in your spreadsheet. You may check a field or drag it to a quadrant in the lower portion.

(2) The lower right quadrants – this area defines where and howthe data shows on your pivot table. You can have a field show in either a column or row. You may also indicate if the information should be counted, summed, averaged, filtered and so on.

(3) The red outlined area to the left is the result of your selections from (1) and (2). You’ll see that the only difference I made in the last pivot table was to drag the AGE GROUP field underneath the PRECINCT field in the Row Labels quadrant.

How to Create an Excel Pivot Table

There are several ways to build a pivot table. Excel has logic that knows the field type and will try to place it in the correct row or column if you check the box. For example, numeric data such as Precinct counts tends to appear to the right in columns. Textual data, such as Party would appear in rows.

While you can simply check fields to display and let Excel build your pivot table, I prefer to use the “drag and drop” method. This is partly because I like to visualize my data in columns and rows. I think it may also be easier if you have fields, which can appear to be numbers like a precinct value.

1. Open your original spreadsheet and remove any blank rows or columns.

2. Make sure each column has a heading, as it will be carried over to the Field List.

3. Make sure your cells are properly formatted for their data type.

4. Highlight your data range

5. Click the Insert tab.

6. Select the PivotTable button from the Tables group.

7. Select PivotTable from the list.

Insert tab and create pivot table button

The Create PivotTable dialog appears.

create pivot table dialog box

8. Double-check your Table/Range: value.

9. Select the radio button for New Worksheet.

10. Click OK.

A new worksheet opens with a blank pivot table. You’ll see that the fields from our source spreadsheet were carried over to thePivotTable Field List.

blank Excel pivot table

11. Drag an item such as PRECINCT from the PivotTable Field List down to the Row Labels quadrant. The left side of your Excel spreadsheet should show a row for each precinct value. You should also see a checkmark appear next to PRECINCT.

adding one criteria to pivot table

12. The next step is to ask what you would like to know about each precinct. I’ll drag the PARTY field from the PivotTable Field List to the Column Labels quadrant. This will provide an additional column for each party. Note that you won’t see any numerical data.

dragging second criteria for pivot table

13. To see the count for each party, I need to drag the same field to the Values quadrant. In this case, Excel determines I want a Count of PARTY. I could double-click the entry and choose another Field Setting. Excel has also added Grand Totals.

Adding column labels to pivot table

Additional Groupings and Options

As you build your Excel pivot table, you’ll probably think of additional ways to group the information. For example, you might want to know the Age Range of voters by Precinct by Party. In this case, I would drag the AGE GROUP column from thePivotTable Field List down below the PRECINCT value in Row Labels.

adding a second row critera to pivot table

Each age group is broken out and indented by precinct. At this stage, you might also be thinking of usability. As with a regular spreadsheet, you may manipulate the fields. For example, you might want to rename “Grand Total” to “Total” or even collapse the age values for one or more precincts. You can also hide or show rows and columns. These features work the same way as a regular spreadsheet.

One area that is different is the pivot table has its own options. You can access these options by right-clicking a cell within and selecting PivotTable Options… For example, you might only want Grand Totals for columns and not rows.

There are also ways to filter the data using the controls next to Row Labels or Column labels on the pivot table. You may also drag fields to the Report Filter quadrant.

Troubleshooting Excel Pivot Tables

You might encounter several “gotchas” with this example file or another spreadsheet. Sometimes when you move around your pivot table the PivotTable Field List disappears. To get it back, click any cell with a value.

You can also move or “pivot” your data by right clicking a data field on the table and selecting the “Move” menu. From here, you can move a column to a row or even change the position. An example of this might be the values for “LAST VOTED” since Excel will sort by the month first. You might prefer to move the data so the election dates are in a chronological order.

I prefer not adding fields to a pivot table. I think it’s easier to add the fields first to your source spreadsheet. The reason is you might get items out of sync if you move data unless you make them a calculated field.

Excel pivot tables may not make the election data exciting, but it can make the analysis easier. Without these tables, you’d probably spend more time filtering, sorting and subtotaling. The other benefit is that it’s easy to start over by deselecting fields or moving them to another location. Feel free to download the tutorial spreadsheet below and play with the data. This may be the only time you’re allowed to manipulate election data.

How to Find Your Job with LinkedIn

The job and internship search can be tough and discouraging, especially in a down economy. The search itself can appear to be a full-time job in itself with so many different areas of focus, including resumes, cover letters, emails, networking, applications, interviews and more, and with so many different tools and resources available to help you with them. One of the most powerful weapons of the career search in today’s job market is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the leading “social networking†site for professionals. It’s not social networking like on Facebook or MySpace, but more business and career networking. There is so much you can do on LinkedIn, and while it is not the only effective tool available to you in your career search, it really deserv es some of your time, attention and investment as it integrates all of your career search efforts and can really help you be more effective and productive in the other important areas.

Here are 6 ways to use LinkedIn to optimize your career search and find your dream job. If you k now someone who is seeking a job or internship, please forward them these tips along with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

1. Profile

  • Use the Profile link on the left and whether you’ve just created your profile or already have one, make sure to follow the suggested steps to complete your profile up to the 100% level. A complete profile lifts you up in LinkedIn’s search engine results.
  • Go beyond the bare minimum when following those steps and make sure to fill in as much professional, academic and skill-based information from your resume as you feel comfortable providing. The more information you have provided, the more potentially-matching names and keywords you will have provided, in turn also optimizing your profile in LinkedIn’s search engine results.
  • Completing your profile 100% will require getting 3 recommendations, but try to go beyond that. Ask for brief recommendations from as many past supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, key classmates, professors etc as possible. Tha t’s the beauty of LinkedIn, you can request brief recommendations from people from whom you might not request longer, more comprehensive hard-copy recommendations. Many brief high-quality recommendations are often just as valuable as a few long high-quality recommendations. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to write one for them in return.
  • Create an interesting, intriguing and memorable subtitle to be included with your name, something more than simply “MBA Student†and/or “Financial Analyst.â€
  • Update your status often to post your availability and career goals like “John is seeking full-ti me opportunities in brand management with food and beverage CPG firms.â€

2. Groups

  • Use the Groups link on the left and search for LinkedIn groups related to your company, industry, school and/or career-related interests and request to join (maximum limit is 50 groups). While quantity is not as important as quality, join as many as possible and remember that groups with more members allow for more potential contacts. Group membership also allows you to contact fellow group members (depending on their privacy settings) even if they are not your direct connections which can be very valuable in your job search.
  • Once joined or confirmed by the group owner as a member, check to see what the group’s discussion board guidelines are (if any), and if permitted, post a personal sales pitch for your job candidacy on each group’s discussion board and include your email address, Twitter username etc.
  • Network with group members by offering insights and answers to questions on the discussion board and/or posting questions or discussion topics yourself. This helps you make valuable connections while starting to establish your personal brand.
  • Check out the groups’ external websites/communities for more networking opportunities.
  • Consider joining open networking groups, such as TopLinked, Invites Welcome and many more. This will increase your number of personal connections, but the true value is that it puts you in second-degree contact with more professionals and depending on their privacy settings, allows you contact them.

3. People

  • With an increasing network of connections and fellow group members, under the People tab at the top, search for contacts of intere st, industry leaders and/or current employees of your top-choice companies and if possible, message them requesting brief informational interviews.
  • When successful, read their profiles to learn a little more about them prior to your conversation. If appropriate, use this information to help you come across well-researched and find common ground with your interviewer.

4. Jobs

  • Under the Jobs tab at the top, you will find LinkedIn’s own job board, a great place to search for jobs on a daily basis. Its job board is similar to others, like Monster and CareerBuilder; however, many of the opportunities are exclusively available on LinkedIn, and many of the opportunities list the recruiters or employers who posted them, offering another level of personal connection for the cover letter and future networking.
  • In addition, this job board is where the profile recommendations really can make a difference, for after you apply, employers and recruiters can instantly refer to your recommendations as complimentary s upport to your resume, cover letter and profile.

5. Answers

  • Using the Answers tab at the top, you can search relevant questions of interest or of relevance to your expertise by category or by keywords and you can offer your own answers and insights. The person who asked the question may rate the best answers, which if yours, can help identify you on LinkedIn as an official expert in a given subject area. However, regardless of your answer ratings, offering your insights and answers will begin to establish your personal brand and expertise and will initiate some potential networking and job opportunities.
  • You can also post your own questions. If you are writing a book, articles for a blog etc., this can be a great way to get some ideas and answers to your own questions which can enhance the value of the content you offer to others through your writing and reinforces your own brand and expertise.

6. Companies

  • Under the Companies tab at the top, you can search companies by industry category and geographic location and identify companies that you may not have previously considered, especially smaller companies and start-ups. LinkedIn also shows whether the companies in your search results have posted job opportunities on its job board, a feature which is very helpful.
  • If the companies don’t have jobs posted on LinkedIn, visit the companies’ corporate websites and check for their job opportunities or application processes.
  • Use their company profiles to identify new people, especially the hiring managers or HR decision makers, to contact for information, information interviews etc.