Simple proofreading techniques to improve your writing
By Lisa Brown
I am a huge fan of editing and proofreading effectively because it can save you so much embarrassment.
There was a moment, a few years ago, when I wrote a card to my boss and embarrassed myself. I won’t say what the card said, but the single word I was trying to write was ‘organism’.
Of course, I was the laughing stock at my company for a while but I did learn an important lesson.
Always proofread any written work, personal or professional. Let’s just say I became a proofreading expert after that embarrassing moment and have learned a few tips and techniques.
1. One type of problem
Do not overwhelm yourself by trying to spot every type of problem the first time you read through your work.
Take one common error at a time and correct this. It is easier for the brain to focus on one specific issue at a time and you are less likely to miss any mistakes.
Perhaps you can start with the format of the document. Check that it is in line with the requirements.
2. Read it aloud
Remember those study tips you use to research, and there was always the one of reading loudly? Well, the same applies to proofreading.
When you hear the sentences flowing into each other, you are more likely to identify any grammatical errors. If a sentence sounds incorrect, find an online paraphrasing tool and rephrase online. It will save you time and effort.
Many times I can identify a sentence as incorrect by reading it out loud. In fact, read it to someone and see how they receive it.
3. Read it backwards
This is one of my favorite proofreading tips. I pick up so many spelling and grammar mistakes when I don’t focus on the flow of the sentence. Sure you can use a text paraphraser for your sentences, but you have to make sure each word is spelt correctly as well.
A great way to do this is reading backwards.
Your eyes won’t easily miss a spelling error because all you are focusing on is the word. You have nothing to concentrate on but every word. There is no story, no distraction of the plot. Every word has to stand for and by itself.
4. Be well rested
If you are trying to proofread late at night when you are really tired, you might want to rethink that. You should be able to fully concentrate when you are trying to identify errors.
Being tired could cost you more time correcting the mistakes you made when you were tired. Honestly, you are just wasting your time trying to proofread when you are not fully focused.
It’s like trying to study for finals after a long day. Sometimes you just need to set everything aside and do it later.
5. Check your facts
You cannot just randomly make up facts and put that in your writing. Be sure that your facts are from a legitimate source and recheck your source if you must. Cite these statements properly.
Also, make sure you are not changing the fact when putting it in your own words. Rewording is perfectly fine as long as the message remains unchanged.
In fact, try and reword it in your own voice as you don’t want to lose the value of that.
6. Print out your work
Unless you are proofreading a 500-page novel, you should always try and work on a printed copy to help spot mistakes.
First off, the computer screen is terrible for your eyes, and secondly, you just notice more errors on a printed copy. I think our brains are just wired this way.
You also have the opportunity to cross out words and rewrite it, which will help you remember it better than if you were to type it out.
7. Don’t rush
If you are trying to proofread a long article in one go, you are going to be left with some errors.
Give yourself ample time to work through every common grammar and/or spelling mistakes. Proofreading is one of the final steps before you submit.
If proofreading is part of your job, be sure your client won’t be embarrassed when trusting you to get rid of all mistakes. Nothing is ever done to perfection when something is rushed.
Be sure to work enough time into your schedule when you are planning your days. The more time, the better.
8. Step away
Sometimes you have to step away from the piece before you proofread. If you are the author and the proofreader, then take some time in between the two.
Your brain needs to almost recognize the proofreading as a separate step, and that is difficult to do when you just wrote the same piece. If you can, leave an entire day between writing and proofreading, it will serve you well.
Give your mind the necessary time to split these two jobs.
9. Ask for help
Ask someone else proofread, especially if the piece is very important. A fresh pair of eyes can never hurt.
Call a friend or family member to help proofread your work after you’ve done so yourself. You might be surprised at what they pick up because they will be unbiased. It cannot hurt in the least to give it a try.
Also, if someone is reading something for the first time, they are more open to picking up mistakes. You have been reading and rereading the same piece for a while, and your eyes have the ability to adjust.
Proofreading is not rocket science, but it is not to be taken lightly.
In order for you to leave a lasting impression, you have to get rid of almost all errors. Keep in mind that no one is perfect so be kind to yourself in the moments when you let a punctuation mark slip through the cracks. Everyone makes mistakes.
At least you are taking the time and making an effort to minimize the errors in your work. This is already more than what some people do, so well done to you.
More reading: The Best Free Grammar Check And Punctuation Checker
Lisa Brown works as a content manager. She is specialized on writing useful articles for writers, students and people who want to improve their writing skills. Her hobby is reading, travelling and blogging. Lisa`s life motto is “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”.