How to improve your proofreading
A great skill to have is the ability to proofread quickly and effectively. Here is a list of tips and tricks to help you get there:
1. Read your work aloud
This is something you probably have heard everywhere. This is easier said than done; you must read it slowly and think about how it would sound to somebody who has never read your writing before. As the writer we know what each sentence is trying to convey, so we read it out how we think it is written rather than the way it is actually written. Try to read every single word and pay close attention to the meaning you are projecting with each sentence. Reading aloud and slowly helps you catch errors you would not have otherwise.
2. Take a break and change your perspective
You should always allow time for you to get out of the writer’s point of view and enter the reader’s point of view. Some people achieve this by taking a quick trip to the kitchen and getting a cup of coffee after they have finished writing. I like to go out of a quick jog, about 20 mins and I come back home refreshed and ready to proofread. It’s important to remember that the person reading your document or piece may not know your situation, or know you at all. When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you tend to spot parts that do not deliver your idea clear enough. Identifying these areas and develop them for improved clarity.
3. Slow down
It is unbelievable how much you can miss when you try to read through a document or piece quickly. All proofreaders have to learn to slow down when searching for errors. Many people find that moving a pen or pencil underneath each line as they read can help them focus and find errors easier.
4. Printing out your piece
Some people may say this is unnecessary, but it is really beneficial. You tend to find more errors when you can physically touch and write on the paper. This also makes it easier to move your fingers along each word, referring back to the previous point. This process may need to use up a bit more paper but is a foolproof way of catching errors and mistakes you make in your pieces.
5. Don’t rely on spell check
This is a convenience that has made us lazy, and lazy writers definitely produce more errors. Spell check systems are not foolproof and won’t catch every single mistake. Use spell check as a time saver for common errors like spelling, but then you need to proofread your document to find more complex problems within your writing.
6. Look for patterns in your mistakes
Pay really close attention to the errors you make, this could highlight patterns in your writing which should be fixed. Once you know which errors you typically make, you should remember to look for them in the future. Over time these errors would slowly fade away and disappear from your writing.
7. Don’t let your sentences run on for too long
Long sentences are hard to read, they can form a barrier to stop readers from focusing on your point. When the sentence appears to be too long you should try to break it down into shorter sentences. Shorter sentences are much easier on the eyes and are more convenient for the reader.
8. Do not be afraid to use a dictionary or thesaurus
We all have moments where we cannot remember how to spell a word or just cannot find the right way to express yourself. It is perfectly normal, it happens to the best of us. However good you are, it is still going to happen to you. In times like these, instead of wasting time trying to remember, use a dictionary or thesaurus. You can of course use an electronic dictionary or an online one as well.
9. Try to reduce the level of “waffle” in your writing
Waffling can be really counterproductive when trying to communicate a point. There are chances that your reader would miss out on an important point if your writing is padded out with too much “waffle.” They may even make them want to stop reading your articles. Your message can become confusing and people don’t want to read that. Everybody “waffles” from time to time, heck even I do, so be on lookout for it constantly.
10. Double Double check your grammar
I cannot stress this enough. Take care with words such as: their/there/they’re, your/you’re, and to/too/too. Try to think of the focus of your sentence then apply the correct grammatical identity to the word. Whenever you use these words in the wrong context you could send a poor message to your reader. One mistake like this could be seen as nothing, a slip-up; however persistent mistakes like this could be seen as more and ruin your credibility.