If you want to churn out amazing content, it needs to be mishap free. Errors in your writing can detract from your value, tarnish your image and most of all, force readers away from your work.
While having a fresh set of eyes look over anything you write is recommended, you can also proofread your own work. Here are my best tips to help you develop a solid process that works for you:
1. No Distractions
Distractions can easily upset your proofreading process. They can draw your mind’s attention away, even partially, so that you aren’t properly focused on what you are reading. Eliminate distractions before you start proofreading.
2. Shout It Out Loud
Reading in your head can mean you easily skip over words and errors. You might not need to shout, but reading your work out loud can prompt you to concentrate on every word, since you actually need to speak it.
3. Read Backwards
This like backwards sentence every reading mean don’t I ,no!
Did you get that? 🙂 Reading “backwards” is one of the most common proofreading tips around, at least I think so, anyway. It essentially means read your work from the “bottom up.” You can either:
- Start with the last sentence, then read the previous sentence, then the sentence before that
- Start with the last paragraph. Read that paragraph in its entirety. Then move onto the next paragraph above
Either way, reading backwards or from the bottom up teaches your mind to let go of the overall start-finish flow and meaning of your piece and focus instead on the words on the page (or screen).
If you want extra accuracy, try combining this tip with the point above – read your work out loud, but backwards.
3. Pay Attention to Punctuation
Punctuation mistakes can be frequent and common, especially as our brains don’t always pay attention to punctuation as we write.
- Does every sentence start with a capital letter and end with a full stop (.), exclamation mark (!) or question mark (?)
- Are commas used in the right places? Are any commas missing or does the absence of commas change the meaning of your sentence?
- Are you using quotation marks correctly and consistently?
- Are you apostrophes in the right place? For example, “it’s” is different to “its” and “their” is different to “they’re“
This is just some of the punctuation you should look out for. If you don’t quite understand how these punctuation marks should be used, you may want to consult an editor or proofreader to help you.
4. Learn Your Homonyms!
What’s a homo-what?!
Homonyms are words that sound the same or that are spelled the same, but that have different meanings. For instance:
- Two vs. to
- Affect vs. effect
- Accept vs. except
- They’re vs. there vs. their
- Here vs. hear
- Desert vs. dessert
- Whether vs. weather
Using the wrong homonyms in your writing can affect your meaning significantly and can also make your work look unprofessional. Again, if you are unsure if you are using the correct words, ask another writer or an editor/proofreader.
5. Check For Consistency
Consistency is one of the biggest errors I correct as an editor and proofreader. Remember, if you spell a word one particular way, it must be spelled that same way throughout your entire document. Similarly, if you use a particular mark (like quotation marks) to indicate something (like a quote), you need to use those same marks for the same purpose throughout your work.
Mistakes in consistency often relate to:
- Spelling – Don’t spell the same words differently (e.g. you shouldn’t be writing “long term” and then “long-term” – choose one and then stick with it)
- Capital letters – For instance, if you write “Sydney Tower” using capitals, then every time you mention “Sydney Tower”, it must use capitals (So, you can’t write “Sydney Tower” and then “Sydney tower”)
- Brackets – Do all opening brackets have a closing bracket (like this?); not (like this.
- Numbers – If you use the number “ten” in a sentence, don’t then later use the numeral “10” in another sentence. Again, pick a format and stick to it.
- Numbered or sequential lists – Make sure that your labelled lists are in order; accidentally skipping a number can be a common error (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6)
If you are writing in an Australian context, you should be using the British versions of various words. For example:
S instead of Z
- Organised NOT Organized
- Realise NOT Realize
- Civilisation NOT Civilization
OUR instead of OR
- Honour NOT Honor
- Colour NOT Color
- Rumour NOT rumor
RE not ER
- Centre NOT Center
- Theatre NOT theater
- Kilometre NOT Kilometer
If you are using a word processor, like Microsoft Word, it can often auto-correct your Australian spelling and change this to American spelling, so be sure to check your work carefully for “Americanisms.”
7. Read. Each. Word.
This is the real secret behind great proofreading, but it’s easier said than done. Reading backwards and reading out loud (see above) can both help.
However, a trick that works for me (usually combined with reading out loud) is to use some kind of pointer: a pencil, the mouse cursor or even my finger.
As you read, point to each word. This ensures that you don’t skip through sentences (and miss errors) and that you give each word the attention it deserves. It’s a slower and more mechanical way of reading, but it’s definitely much more thorough and accurate.
8. Hard Copying
Finally, many writers and editors also claim that it is much easier to proofread your work on paper, rather than on the computer screen, especially since \staring at the screen can make you weary and tired (not great conditions for proofreading!).
If you can do this, great. Use a pen to edit your work on paper, then transfer those corrections to the soft copy of your document.
But printing off your work in hard copy isn’t always possible/feasible. If I printed off everything I had to read, I’d be drowning in hundreds of pieces of paper, spending a fortune on ink and doing no good to the environment.
If you aren’t able to print off your work for proofreading, I would suggest this:
- Avoid proofreading when you’re tired or when you’ve been at the computer for a long time (e.g. end of the day); if you’re going to approach your work, do so when you’re fresh and “awake”
- Don’t proofread your work straight after you’ve written it; instead, take a break and come back to it later, with fresh eyes/perspective
- Use your mouse cursor to help you read each word carefully (see Tip 7 above)
- Proofread twice if you can – you might just pick up some errors you missed the first time
Return to: www.nataliesutherlandwriter.com