Writing an article or book is the easy part. Getting the ideas down once you get started is no big deal, right? But what if what you said gets garbled in the typing? Proofreading for mistakes and editing carefully ensures your writing is clear and the mistakes aren’t distracting. Here’s a how-to for learning to proofread better – tips even a seasoned writer can use!
Tip #1 – Save the proofreading until you’re through writing
This may seem silly to say, but most people do proofread as they go. Think you don’t? Try this – turn off your monitor and write a paragraph or two. Are you frustrated? Then you proofread as you type. This is very distracting to your thought flow and interrupts your writing. Get down what you want to say first. Change it, edit all you want. But save the actual fine tooth comb for when you’ve finished writing. This also keeps you from wasting time editing lines you may not even keep in the final product.
Tip #2 – Read everything out loud
It’s amazing how many careless mistakes you’ll find when you hear what you’ve written. That’s because as we proofread, our eyes adjust to what we’ve put on paper, because our mind knows what it wanted to say in the first place. There’s a reason we have the expression, “It just doesn’t sound right.” Our ears tune in differently and give us another “view” of our work. And we auditory learners cannot go without this helpful tip. So grab the cat or your imaginary friend and listen to your writing.
Tip #3 – Read it all backwards
Mistakes the overlook and in fill to able being mind your of ability the eliminate you time a at word one apart writing your taking by.
(By taking your writing apart one word at a time, you eliminate the ability of your mind being able to fill in and overlook the mistakes.) This will catch your spelling mistakes and typos. Especially look for anything you know to be your weakness. If you’re always making the same misteaks, I mean mistakes, here’s where to find them!
Tip #4 – Look for common mistakes in isolation
Do you usually make the same grammatical mistakes? Maybe you’re always putting apostrophes in plurals. (My neighborhood vegetable vendor is always selling tomato’s!) Proofread for that particular error. Skim your writing for words with apostrophes and make sure that apostrophe should be there. Have a hard time with commas? Skim through and stop at all commas, and once again make sure they are necessary. You can skim forwards or backwards. I usually do this backwards because I get caught up in the writing as a whole when I skim forwards.
Tip #5 – Set the writing aside for a few days
This is hard to do if you’re on a deadline, but even a few hours away from your writing can help. Go get a cup of tea or watch your favorite soap, then return to the writing. This gives you a fresh set of eyes. Your mind was so tuned in on what you were doing before and accustomed to seeing everything the same that it skipped over errors. Now it’s rested, giving you a new chance to proofread and catch whatever mistakes may still exist.
Of course, all of these tips assume knowledge of the rules of English. If you really don’t know the difference between there, they’re and their, convince someone else to proofread your writing, or hire a proofreader! You can’t correct rules you don’t know. And remember, even Thomas Jefferson had to revise the Constitution!