Top 10 Proofreading Tips
1. Practice, practice, practice. Becoming proficient at proofreading doesn’t happen overnight. The more you do it, the better you will become.
2. You’ll eventually work out a method that suits you, and that comes with time.
3. Don’t assume you know something—if it feels off, and you are in doubt, check it, double check it, and research it. That goes for all the parts of a body of work: facts, spelling, grammar, punctuation and layout.
4. Take your time and read every word slowly. Really focus on what you are saying so you can hear the words. Read out loud because you are more likely to hear if there is a mistake.
5. Read exactly what is presented on the page, not what you assume is there out of habit. For example, the sentence may read, “I went the store.” The word to is missing, but you may not see or hear that it is missing because you assume it’s there, simply out of habit. This skill may take awhile to really perfect, but it’s well worth practicing.
6. Proofread the body of work more than once to ensure accuracy.
7. Be conscious and alert. A common error most of us make is to look at a word and not recognize it as being incorrect because we have always spelled it incorrectly.
8. Don’t proofread when you are tired, and stop and take a break if you are beginning to feel distracted or fatigued. If you don’t, it could really affect the accuracy of your work because proofreading requires great concentration.
9. Eliminate items from your environment that could distract or disrupt your concentration. If the phone, clock or TV is going to pull you out of the “proofreading zone,” then remove these items so you don’t even have to see them, let alone hear them. Even the slightest distraction can cause you to overlook something.
10. Always have your style guide and style sheet accessible.
Tell me what you think your weaknesses would be as a proofreader based on errors you’ve made in proofing your own work. For instance, I’ll often have extra spaces between sentences, I can write ‘are’ instead of ‘or’ which a spell check won’t pick up, I’ll reverse letters and my eye won’t pick it up unless I read my work aloud….
-I leave out words like to or it because my mind moves so fast when I am typing, and subsequently reading over the work. So I will be thinking the sentence correctly in my head, but will leave out a word. An example is,
“I told you to bring down the stairs.” I left out it after bring.
-I am comma crazy. I will add commas even when one may not be required. I add commas when I am listing items in a sentence without really knowing for sure if they are all necessary.
-Punctuation in side or outside parenthesis? That is the question. I am not consistent with this.
-My most recent faux pas was that I sent out a newsletter to my email list regarding an event, and had the right day of the week paired with the wrong date. So instead of reading Sunday, May 4th it read Sunday, May 3rd. I kept reading it over and over looking for spelling, grammar and layout, but never once did I check the date.
-I always spell recommend wrong. It’s a poor habit.
-Sometimes I add one space after a period before the next sentence begins. At other times, I add two spaces. I am inconsistent with my spacing.
For the Proofreader, here’s a little humor… Read here
What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?