What They Didn’t Teach You in Law School #13: Sometimes It’s Okay to Look at Things Through Rose-Colored Glasses

You probably spent a lot of time writing, reading and proofreading papers in law school. As an attorney, you know that sending out or filing a document with the wrong date, time, phone number, names or dollar amount can cause big problems for your law practice. While most law students and attorneys know that proofreading is important, their proofreading method relies on a flawed process: repeatedly reading and editing the same document over and over and over again until they are either bored to tears or printing the final copy minutes before deadline.

Today, I read a tip that can help you when you are trying to proofread your next court document, letter or contract: After you have finished your draft, stick a colored transparency over the paper or your computer screen, and reread the document. This will help you find mistakes that your eyes might miss if you just read black words in a standard font on a white background.

When we try to proofread our own writing, we see and process the same story multiple times. During that process, we tend to skip words, rush through text, tire from the tedious task and allow our brain to fill in gaps and mistakes with words we expect to see on the page. By changing the familiar appearance of a document, our tired, nonobjective eyes and brain can be tricked into thinking they are looking at something new. Because the document seems new and different, it will be easier to increase attention to detail.

This logic is not limited to using a tinted transparency. You can also try changing the font style, printing a draft on colored or textured paper, or altering the format. You can even throw on a pair of tinted glasses. Just do anything that makes your document look different from the original draft.

What other ways can you benefit from a simple change in appearances or perspective to improve your law practice?