Proofreading is the method of identifying and correcting textual errors before they are written or placed online. When you correct small spelling and punctuation mistakes, typos, formatting problems and discrepancies. It's the very last step in writing. With any text that will be shared with an audience, whether it is an academic document, a work application, an online post, or a print flyer, proofreading is important. You can choose to proofread the text yourself or employ a professional, depending on your skills and budget.
Spell checking is useful, but it is far from infallible. This is where proofreading comes in. Below you will find 8 tips and techniques to make your proofreading sessions more effective.
1. Don't just rely on the spell checker
Using a spell checker is one thing, relying on it is another. Spell-checks have their place, but they don't reveal all the mistakes.
Even if words are spelled correctly, they are often misused. Compare these statements:
We have an envious record.
We have an enviable track record.
The spell checker goes out and says everything is fine. But wait: the first sentence doesn't convey common sense (hey, trust us, even if we're jealous of everyone else!).
Knowing that such problems exist is one thing, finding them and solving them is another. But that's the meaning of the other tips, so don't give up!
2. Give yourself some time
Proofreading is about discovering errors on the surface. If you have just finished writing the document, you are probably too involved. It's a good idea to take a break before you start proofreading. A fresh mind will help you concentrate better and spot mistakes more easily.
3. Read it out loud
If you read each word out loud, you can easily spot typos, misplaced commas and awkward constructions.
4. Use a checklist
Make a list of the mistakes you make frequently and pay special attention to them when you proofread your document. Common mistakes include homonyms (words with the same spelling/phrase but different meanings), contractions (his and hers), punctuation and capitalization.
5. Offline proofreading
Print your document and proofread it line by line. Reading the document can help you detect errors that were overlooked during online proofreading.
6. Once is not enough
A single proofreading of your document is not enough to discover all the errors. Continue proofreading until you no longer find any errors. To make sure that you haven't forgotten anything, look for only one type of problem at a time: grammatical errors, punctuation, numerical errors, inconsistencies, formatting, etc.
7. Be clear
Think about your target audience. Will they understand your writing? Put these basics into practice:
Clarity: make clear statements
Simplicity: eliminate jargon where possible
Sound: use appropriate language
8. Do it backwards
Changing your reading pattern can help you identify quirks and errors in your text. Doing it backwards may be slow at first, but you'll soon be faster. If you persevere, it will pay off.
9. Re-read when you are most attentive
Take some time for yourself and make your corrections when you are ready to concentrate.
Don't try to reread everything in one session unless you have no other choice.
A good night's sleep and a fresh start can reveal many mistakes you've overlooked before.
10. Break it up
Read your content several times and look for different types of problems each time. Here's an example:
Reading 1: Focus only on spelling
Reading 2: Focus on grammar only
Reading 3: Focusing on topics only
The more you break things down, the easier each reading becomes. This approach is ideal for improving the consistency of your writing.
However, be careful if you reread your work too often. Long pauses between sessions can help you avoid "word blindness".