Whether you are writing an article, social media posts, or simply an email, ensuring your text is free from mistakes is essential. The spell checker helps, but it’s far from a perfect solution and that’s where proofreading comes in. Here are our top 9 tips and techniques for proofreading perfection.
- Don’t rely on spelling and grammar checkers
Spell checkers are great for initially checking content and identifying high-level errors. However, automated spelling and grammar checkers are limited and cannot identify many common grammatical errors. This is why taking the time to carefully check what you’ve written is a must.
- Break the text into manageable chunks
Read each section carefully and then take a break before you progress to the next. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead and will allow you to concentrate more effectively on the section of writing that you are proofreading.
- Check the punctuation and grammar
Focusing on the words is good, but do not neglect the punctuation. Pay attention to capitals, commas and dreaded ‘apostrophe crimes’. For some people, spotting a ‘your’ where there should be a ‘you’re’ is unforgivable, and can damage your credibility.
- Does it make sense?
Check your content for homonyms. These are words that share the same spelling or pronunciation, but have different meanings and origins. Switching accept with except or complement with compliment could be disastrous, so pay attention to them as spell check won’t always pick these up.
- Write it, check it, and check it again
If you are proofing your own work, leave a decent period of time between finishing the writing and checking it. You’ll spot more mistakes if you read it with a fresh approach, as if it were a document you had never seen before.
- Read it backwards
When writing we usually become blind to our own mistakes since the brain automatically “corrects” wrong words inside sentences. In order to break this pattern, you can read the text backwards, word by word.
- Print it out
Don’t rely on proofreading on screen. Most mistakes and typos can be picked up this way, and it’s easier to correct them, but there will be some you’ll miss. Reading a hard copy provides another opportunity to spot typos that may have been skimmed over on the screen.
- Read it out
One technique that the majority of professional proofreaders use is to read aloud. If you verbalise the text, you can hear how it flows and sounds, allowing you to spot awkward phrasing or over-long sentences.
- It’s a team effort
Always get someone else to do a final proofread of your own work – a fresh pair of eyes is more likely to spot your mistakes. Having a minimum of one other person to check your text will eliminate mistakes and ensures it makes sense to others, not just you.