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This article is written by Kishita Gupta from Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar. This article deals with an overview of the concept and importance of proofreading contracts.

Introduction 

The introduction of personal computers and word-processing software has provided lawyers with a range of tools that pre-computer practitioners could never have anticipated. As difficult as it may be for young lawyers to believe, you couldn’t “generate” a new document in a matter of seconds by just saving an old document under a different name before, roughly skimming through it. You couldn’t just tap a key to replace every instance of “Jones” with “Smith.” In order to “search” a document for a specific clause, you had to skim the entire thing with your own eyes.

Proofreaders, like all other editors in the publishing industry, require a keen eye and attention to detail. Because proofreading is the final stage of the editorial process, it ensures that a text is polished and ready to be read by the general public.

Proofs are made first from a galley, a long tray carrying a column of type, in current practice, and are hence termed galley proofs; the term is also applied to the first copy generated in photo composition and other kinds of typesetting that do not employ metal type.

Proofreading contracts – meaning and scope 

Proofreading contracts is the process of checking it for spelling, grammar, inconsistencies, punctuation issues, formatting flaws, and typos after it has been completed. Both are essential and intertwined elements of the drafting process.

Proofreaders must devote a significant amount of time and effort to their tasks, making it one of the most demanding positions in the writing/editing industry. It all comes down to paying attention to detail and having a good eye for abnormalities.

Help to the freelancer 

Freelancers are more vulnerable to defective contracts since they can’t afford legal help and are more likely to feel forced to accept the terms, whatever they are.

A faulty contract, like a vengeful stepmother, may cost you dearly, not only monetarily, but also in terms of squandered time and a ruined reputation. These few conditions are what every freelancer needs to turn a pumpkin of a contract into an attractive, secure vehicle for your project.

Let’s take a look at these crucial freelance contract provisions and why you need them in your life.

Spell Checking

The most innovative and useful tool for proofreading legal documents is a spell checker. The number of times some people forget to run it is equally remarkable! Regardless of the activity, this should be the initial step in the proofreading process. At the same time, even spell-check can make errors, so keep an eye on it. Always be on the lookout for erroneous corrections. You may use the spell checker to catch iterating words, reversal characters, and a variety of other frequent errors.

Double-check – facts, figures, and proper names

Make sure that all of the information in your text is accurate and, of course, reproducible when needed, when proofreading legal documents for correct spelling and usage. All footnotes and cross-references must be uniform in format and point to the correct content. Look for all numbers, especially dates, proper names, and any numbers that come after $, or symbols. In tables and pie charts, double-check that your numbers add up. First, consider whether a name, a date, or a number is necessary; if it isn’t, delete it.

Take care of the headings

Your document’s content may be flawless, but an unclear or misspelled header can immediately undermine your reader’s trust in your overall competency.

Formatting is an important element

Remember to double-check the document’s formatting, punctuation, page numberings, headers, and footers, among other things. They should all be included in your proofreading legal paperwork. Also, examine for misspellings, extended sentences, and paragraphs, and if necessary, consult a dictionary or style guide.

Backward order proofreading

Another technique to identify errors is to read your text backward from the final word on the right to the first word on the left. This will allow you to focus on individual words rather than entire sentences. Proofreaders can focus on the syntax of the manuscript rather than getting distracted by its meaning by fixing the last sentence first. Proofreaders will be able to read more slowly and thoroughly if they check grammar from beginning to end.

Review a hard copy

Take a printout of your entire document and proofread it line by line. Re-reading your work in a different format may assist you in detecting problems that you previously overlooked. Check for commas, apostrophes, unclosed quotes, parentheses, full stops, and other punctuation while doing this task.

Search categorically for problems at a time

For better proofreading legal papers, read over all of your material several times, first with sentence structures, next word choice, spellings, and lastly punctuation.

Trust on grammar check

Grammar check is now included in all word processors. This technology, like spell check, is not without flaws. Give the phrase a second look if your grammar check is identifying a sentence fragment or mismatched conjugation, which is useful for proofreading legal papers.

The job of a proofreader

When your work has errors and typos, it will be assumed that you do not pay attention to detail. This is rapidly followed by an apprehension that there may be further errors. “Errors in citations”, for example, carry greater weight and significance than poor grammar. This is why it’s crucial to proofread.

The goal is to make sure your legal work is clear of any language faults or mistakes, whether they are linked to grammar, punctuation, spelling, or any other part of the language. A misplaced apostrophe, a missing comma, or a comma in the wrong position can all change the meaning of a sentence in a legally binding contract or agreement.

Effective proofreading necessitates a certain mindset. It’s not the same mindset as editing, which necessitates paying attention to the meaning and structure of what’s being stated. True, proofreading necessitates some attention to meaning, so you’ll be able to identify whether “cite” or “site” is the correct word in a given situation. However, proofreading is primarily concerned with mechanics: spelling, punctuation, grammar, defined terminology, citations, and cross-references—all of the small aspects that are most likely to go wrong. Lawyers, who tend to be rapid readers who focus solely on substance, may find it particularly difficult to prove successful.

Proofreading contracts train you for your future

Lawyers understand better than others that the devil is in the details, a single typo in a contract may derail a multimillion-dollar transaction. That’s why lawyers and paralegals are typically natural proofreaders, as they spend so much of their time sifting through reams of paperwork.

The key to successful contract drafting is to commemorate a transaction in clear and comprehensive language. Misunderstandings and conflicts over a contract’s terms, conditions, and parties can result from a contract error. Ambiguous statements having potential alternative interpretations, particularly those that are detrimental to your client, can be a serious mistake in contract law drafting.

Contracts are tailored to individual parties and situations. As a result, contract errors can be difficult to detect. Even so, a contract error can have a negative impact on your client, their business, and future business connections.

Proofreading is vital because it can give our writing more force; without it, our work is more likely to contain errors. Poor sentence construction, typographical errors, misspellings, tense confusion, and grammatical problems can seriously jeopardize our potential and reputation as job seekers, bloggers, writers, or academics.

Because these are the components of scholarly writing that a professional proofreader can assist us with, hiring a trained academic or scientific proofreader can be extremely beneficial, especially if our paper has been rejected due to language and formatting issues. We will no doubt be able to identify why proofreading is so crucial to successful authors, once we have used the services of a professional proofreader.

Once we inculcate the ability of perfectly proofreading our document, we leave no stone unturned for creating a reputation in front of our client. Imagine, our client gets our document with clearly visible errors, what impression would it create in their mind. Therefore, this habit or technique will definitely lead us to a better future.

Things to keep in mind while proofreading contracts 

Proofreading a normal document is different from proofreading legal contracts. Here are some of the suggestions that should be kept in mind while proofreading contracts:

  • You go through the document first, only looking at the section numbers. To ensure that the section and subsection numbers are in order and constant, you only glance at them. Misnumbering of sections has grown less prevalent as most word processing software now includes auto-numbering, although it still happens. Inconsistent use of subsection designators (letters, romanettes, etc.) from one section to the next is a more prevalent form of problem that this phase should detect.
  • Secondly, go over all of the subheadings. This should reveal any inconsistencies in the way headers are expressed or presented, as well as any issues with hierarchy (such as assigning a major head to a section that should logically be a subsection).
  • Third, make sure that all of the case citations (if any) are properly checked as per certain citation styles such as Bluebook, OSCOLA, etc.
  • Fourth, double-check all cross-references for accuracy and consistency (for example, use “Sched.” instead of “Schedule”).
  • Finally, in a combined proofing/editing effort, read the text itself, ignoring the things verified in the preceding phases.

Staged proofing may appear to be a lot of extra effort at first, but it saves time and generates better outcomes in the long run. Rather than attempting to accomplish everything at once,

You split your labour so that the entire process goes faster and your concentration is committed to fewer variables at any given moment (making sure the cites are proper, keeping an eye on the section numbering, and minding spelling, grammar, and what the text truly says).

Common mistakes in the computer age

Wrong word, correct spelling

When you eventually get around to reading the material, keep an eye out for particular types of typographical problems. Absolute misspellings have become rare, thanks to spell-checking software. The usage of correctly spelt terms that are incorrect in context has grown much more widespread. The most common examples are the usage of “of” where “or”, and vice versa, but there are many others: “respectfully” in lieu of “respectively,” “form” in place of “from,” “rise” in place of “risk,” and so on.

Incomplete edits

An unfinished edit is the second form of blunder that is all too common in the computer era. For example, the drafter decides to replace the phrase “not inconsistent with” with “pursuant to,” but simply deletes the phrase “not inconsistent,” resulting in “pursuant to with.” Once an error like this has been put into a paper, only careful proofreading will catch it.

Use of defined terms

The careful management of defined terminology is one hallmark of well-crafted work. Defined phrases, when used correctly, reduce verbiage while allowing for precision. They can create ambiguities, lead to unexpected constructions and make clients, other counsel, or courts doubt your competence if they’re used carelessly. If you don’t want to define the same phrase twice, utilize a definite term that hasn’t been defined, or come up with a new name for an idea that already has one.

If all of the defined terms and their definitions are listed in one area of the document under review, you can copy or print that portion and use it as your style sheet. You can cross-reference it with instances of defined terms to ensure consistency and that every defined term has a definition provided or cross-referenced in that section.

Conclusion 

Before personal computers, generations of editors and proofreaders used the simple approaches that have been mentioned in detail here. Computers have undeniably made our lives as lawyers much easier. However, the sloppy techniques created in the days of typewriters and carbon paper are still useful and should be preserved in your toolbox.

As a result, I would advise, “Try to get into the habit of proofreading anything we write — it’s worth taking a few additional moments to make sure any piece of work we do is the best it can be.”

References


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