No matter how skilled of a writer you are, it is easy to submit work that is filled with errors. Even the best writers often miss the mark when it comes to proofreading. However, correcting errors in your work can give you the edge over the competition, making the following 10 proofreading tips of the utmost importance:
- Use fresh eyes. Proofreading after a break from writing can help you see your work with fresh eyes and catch things that need to be fixed. Try proofreading all the work completed in one day the next morning. If time is of the essence, read something else before returning to your own composition.
- Know your weaknesses. Most writers have errors that frequently pop up in their work. Keep a list of the common errors that you are prone to and check specifically for those items when proofreading.
- Watch for little things. Small words that are misspelled or misused are commonly missed when proofreading. For example, keep a close eye on words like “it” and “is.”
- Know the style. Different publications and editors adhere to different style guides. Decide which style you prefer and adjust your writing to meet those guidelines. AP style, for example, may support different punctuation and grammar preferences than the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Vocalize your work. Read your piece out loud to yourself. Hearing your writing vocalized can help you access different areas of your brain than writing and reading, making it easier to pick up on the mistakes.
- Find a friend. A fresh set of eyes is often one of the best ways to ensure error-free writing. Have someone read the work and point out the errors that they notice. A new reader may also be able to offer new proofreading tips.
- Split the tasks. There are numerous types of errors that can be present in your writing. Focus separately on each type of mistake. Use one read-through to look for spelling issues and a separate proofreading session for things like grammar and style mistakes.
- Change it up. Reading the text in a way that is not intended can make errors more obvious. For example, read your work from bottom to top or from right to left. This separates each word from the larger context and makes it easier to spot errors.
- Watch the lighting. Subtle nuances can impact your success at finding and correcting errors. For example, fluorescent lights make it harder to see small mistakes in your work. It is better to proofread under natural lighting.
- Check the obvious. Don’t assume that you are infallible to mistakes in any particular area. Overconfidence can hurt your finished product. Double-check headings and boilerplate text, and regularly review grammar rules that you are unsure about.
Using these proofreading tips can improve your writing and help you accomplish your goals as an author.
About the author: Randall Davidson is a cofounder of ProofreadingServices.Us, a proofreading service that offers book proofreading. Randall enjoys discussing proofreading and editing tips and best practices with other writers.