Proofreading is not just about understanding grammar rules; it’s about developing a focused routine. From blog entries to novels, these 10 crucial proofreading tips will help render each piece error-free:
- Always manually inspect spelling. A computerized spell-checker is fallible, especially when it comes to homonyms (e.g. “there” versus “their”). Manually reading an entire piece from start to finish in order to locate misspelled words is absolutely essential.
- Print out the text. Proofreading on-screen can tire out the eyes far more quickly than proofreading a hard copy. If the text is longer than one page, print it out first.
- Create a customized proofreading list that is particular to the writer’s habits. If the writer knows that he or she has a problem properly using particular words, for example, then he or she should specifically make sure to double-check the usage of these words in the text.
- Always have a dictionary on hand. While a spell-checker can identify incorrectly spelled words, it does nothing for context. In the era of AutoCorrect, it’s easy to produce bizarre texts that, while spelled correctly, say nothing of value. A dictionary will enable the writer to determine if a particular word is being used correctly.
- Proofread for one category of error at a time. If you attempt to proofread the entire document for every possible error at once, then this practically guarantees that errors will escape unnoticed. By proofreading for spelling first, then proofreading for grammar, and finally proofreading for sentence length, the proofreader will be able to perform a far more accurate job.
- Read backward. Reading backward is an excellent way to catch spelling mistakes because it forces the proofreader to focus on individual words out of context.
- Take breaks. Proofreading is a detail-oriented process that requires immense focus and concentration. Without an occasional rest period, proofreaders rob themselves of the ability to be able to clearly see what it is they’re working on.
- Have reference materials on hand. While the Internet is useful for looking up the occasional grammatical question, referring to texts that have been carefully researched and vetted takes the guesswork out of proofreading. If the text is being prepared for a particular format, such as the AP style, the proofreader should have the official reference manual on hand.
- Read the text aloud. This helps highlight cumbersome phrasing. It also allows the writer to identify any passages that may not be necessary and spot incorrect subject/verb pairings.
- Invite a friend over. Proofreading is a collaborative process; don’t be afraid to ask for help. Having someone else read the same passages means errors are twice as likely to be spotted.
Proofreading is difficult only for those who lack discipline. Developing a routine helps ensure your success on each project.