Some people think that proofreading is just a skill you’re born with. The fact is though that it is something that people work at to be good at. They practice proofreading daily, for many years, to become very good at it because they know that it is essential to their reputation as a writer and to the quality of their work.
And you know what that means, right? It means that there’s no excuse for handing in shoddy work or publishing articles filled with comma splices. Anyone can become good at proofreading if they work at it and practice good proofreading skills on a regular basis.
Here are some things to think about as you take your journey towards being an expert proofreader:
1. Get to know your most common mistakes.
Every writer has things that they need to work on the most. Some people have a hard time with comma splice and others are simply comma crazy. Some people misspell certain words all the time (I cannot use the word guarantee without using spell check or sometimes looking it up because even spell check doesn’t recognize my version of it!). Some people are bad for run on sentences. Whatever your weakness is, make sure you know it and you will be more likely to find your mistakes and then fix them.
2. Proofreading is more than misspelling.
If you think that proofreading is just a matter of running spell check you’re likely missing a lot of mistakes. Besides the fact that spell check can miss words (it’s only a computer after all) there are other things you need to proofread for. Grammar is one of them but there’s also clarity, fragments, sentence structure, redundancy and more. If you’re not sure what some of those things are it might be a good idea to do a brush up course.
3. Give it Time
It’s always easier to find mistakes when you come to an article with fresh eyes. Just after you’ve written something – especially if it is big – you’re tired and you’re likely to skim instead of actually proofread. Try to schedule time to proofread into your schedule.
If you’ve written an ebook or a series of articles or even a truly phenomenal blog post, schedule time to let it sit for a day or two. Then come back to it and proofread. You might be surprised at how many things you’ve missed!
4. Read to Yourself
Have you ever noticed how many mistakes you pick up when you read something out loud? Read it to yourself or to your friend or your spouse. You can almost hear the mistakes when you read. You hear where the comma is missing or where there shouldn’t be a comma. You can hear the awkward phrases. You can hear it when you use a certain word too many times. It’s a great proofreading tool!
5. Read once, twice, and thrice!
Don’t stop at one read over. Break it down to several reads and each time you read focus on different aspects of your writing. The first time you might just be focusing on spelling and grammar. The second time you might focus on clarity. The more important a piece of writing it is the more time you should spend on proofreading. Did you know that the actual writing should only take up 25% of your writing process?
6. Get a Friend to Read It
If it is really important, like an ebook that you are getting paid a lot of money for or an ebook that you are publishing yourself, get some help. Get a friend to read it for you. Or if you have to, pay someone to do it (there are great Fiverr gigs for this – just pick someone that has a good rating). This is worth it when your reputation and income are on the line.
7. Never Proofread When You are Tired or Distracted
Proofreading is the kind of work that really does require your complete attention. So, don’t try to proofread something at the end of the day when you’re so tired that you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes open. Don’t proofread when you’re children are running around under your feet and demanding dinner. Schedule proofreading for a time during your day when your eyes are fresh and your mind is alert.