Whenever you write an essay, article or other type of work, you have to edit and proofread it. However, our mind is tricky which is why when proofreading our own text we see it as it should be (or as we imagined it) not as it is. In turn, we miss out on grammar, spelling and punctuation errors we would usually spot immediately in someone else’s work. To make sure this year is more productive for you, I’m going to list useful proofreading tips that will help you proofread your own or someone else’s work successfully.
Proofread after writing and editing
Before you start, you have to understand the difference between proofreading and editing. You should edit your work first by making revisions in sentence structures, content, and language used. Proofreading refers to identifying spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Both editing and proofreading are equally important for overall quality of your work.
Read the text out loud
Reading your work out loud can increase accuracy of proofreading. Start by reading your text in silence first. Then, read it out loud or imagine you’re reading it to some other person. This will make you focus on every aspect of your work and you’ll spot grammar, spelling, and even punctuation mistakes faster.
Eliminate all distractions
You won’t be able to focus on your or someone else’s work and identify various mistakes if you are surrounded by distractions. Leave your phone in another room or turn off Wi-Fi, shut off music, TV and remove other distractions from the place where you work.
Start proofreading prepared
You can always be one step ahead by preparing yourself for proofreading before you even start writing. How? Well, you should write down a list (and always keep it near) of the most common mistakes you usually make in all your works. Use that list to spot the mistakes you made. For example, let’s say you have a tendency to write than instead of then when referring to relation of time and the order in which events in your work occur. In most cases, when editing and proofreading you would overlook this mistake, but keeping it on the list and aiming to find it in the text can be extremely beneficial.
TIP: if you don’t know how to make the list or what mistakes you usually make, start by listing most common errors within that work and add new points to the list with each new work.
Focus on small fractions
Instead of focusing on entire content or story you should analyze sentence by sentence. Why? It’s because focusing on the entire work won’t let you spot some errors that easily. On the other hand, when you analyze and inspect small fractions i.e. sentences you will easily identify mistakes in punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
Correct – reread – repeat
Identifying mistakes in your essay and correcting them is not enough. Every time you make some change, particularly if you’re correcting grammar error and replace some words, you should reread sentence and paragraph again. You want your correction to fit perfectly into your work.
I know it’s impossible to be fully concentrated at all times. If you have a lot to write, by the time you finish everything you just think about going to sleep. Sometimes, you will find yourself drifting off during proofreading phase. When this happens, you should reread the paragraph again to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Naturally, if you don’t have a tight deadline, you can always proofread your work after having some rest.
Don’t rely on software only
MS Word has the Spelling and Grammar option and there are many software one can download and use. Although they do make editing and proofreading process faster, you should never rely on them. These programs sometimes overlook some mistakes or they suggest unreasonable solutions for correcting mistakes they identify. The point is, they are never 100% accurate. You can use them as complementary tool in proofreading process. For example, use Spelling and Grammar (or some software you download) before editing and proofreading. Then, go through your text and correct sentence structures, grammar and spelling mistakes, see how you can improve cohesion and punctuation etc.
Read the piece backward
Correcting mistakes and rereading is inevitable part of proofreading process. Before you move on to the next paragraph you should read it again, but this time read it backward. This is a useful technique that separates words from their context and storyline and enables you to see them as they are. In turn, you won’t overlook mistakes you usually would.
Double check unfamiliar terms
Google is extremely useful here. If your text contains terms that you aren’t familiar with, you should always look them up on Google to see whether you’re spelling them correctly. For instance, if you’re writing some medical article and have to include a name of some disease which is usually in Latin. When proofreading, Google the term and see whether you have to correct the term or not.
Don’t rush, do it slowly and carefully
Don’t forget to proofread footnotes, headline, and subheadings
Choose one of numerous style guides and stick with it to incorporate consistency
Invest in quality grammar books and other resources or look for reliable grammar websites
Never forget to use thesaurus
Don’t forget to format your text
Make short breaks if you have to proofread larger text.
Although constant rereading, analyzing and looking for errors can be quite tedious editing and proofreading are final steps towards high-quality work. Tips from this article will help you build effective proofreading strategy and boost productivity.