Typos drive me crazy, and I make plenty of them, from neural hiccups to errant keystrokes to dangling modifiers. That’s why I follow a checklist when proofreading my own and others’ writing. Here are some of the proofreading tips on my checklist; they might just help you, too.
- Don’t proofread until your editing is complete. Editing and proofreading are not the same thing. Editing is when you revise your work, improve your sentences and remove superfluous words. Proofreading is when you find and correct errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. There’s no point in proofreading your work if you are still editing it.
- Print it out. When proofreading on screen, it’s easy to lose your place or become distracted by alerts or emails. Instead, print your document and use a piece of blank paper to cover up everything below the line you’re proofreading. That way, your eyes and brain can really focus on each line.
- Read it silently. And aloud. If you can only read something once, read your document aloud. If you have time for two reads, proofread it silently the first time, then aloud the second time. You’ll be surprised at the different mistakes your eyes and ears find.
- Try it backward. Start at the end of your document and read it word by word, right to left. Then move up to the next line. This is a great way to find misspellings that your computer’s spell-checker won’t.
- Know your weaknesses. I have a problem with transposing numbers, and my fingers don’t always get contractions right. After I’ve gone through steps 1-4, I use the search function (control + f) to spot-check my problem areas.
- Keep resources handy. Whether it’s the heavy hardcover book or the online version, Merriam-Webster is a good resource for checking the spelling and meaning of words. Grammar Girl is a great resource for grammar questions and clarifications, which leads to my next tip.
- Watch your grammar. I’m not talking about diagramming sentences. I’m talking about making sure your subjects and verbs agree (a singular subject takes a singular verb, for example). I’m talking about run-on sentences and dangling modifiers. If you need examples of each of these and why they are important, go to Authority Pub.
- Check your punctuation. One of my favorite books about writing is Eats, Shoots & Leaves. On the cover is a panda that’s holding a pistol. It’s a good illustration of comma use, as a panda that “eats shoots and leaves” is very different from one that carries a gun and “eats, shoots and leaves.”
- Ask a friend to help. No matter how many times I proofread my own writing, I’ll almost always overlook at least one error. So, I typically ask a friend to proofread it, too. Since the friend hasn’t seen it before, he or she may find things that my eyes skip over.
Give these tips a try and share your favorites in the comment section. Or Google “proofreading tips” for more ideas. And feel free to contact us to learn more about our copywriting, editing and proofreading services.