Polishing writing is much like polishing our shoes when we dress up for a special occasion. And the proofreading is the final stage of the editing process. It is a slow and steady activity, rather than a race to find mistakes. The spell checker helps, but it is far from foolproof. That is where proofreading comes in. Below you will find 8 tips and techniques to make your proofreading sessions more effective.
The Way a Paper Looks Affects the Way Others Judge It
Like it or not, this is true. When you’ve worked hard to develop and present your ideas, you don’t want careless errors distracting your reader from what you have to say. It’s worth paying attention to the details that help you to make a good impression.
Quick and cursory reading, especially after you’ve been working long and hard on a paper, usually misses a lot. Most people devote only a few minutes to proofreading, hoping to catch any glaring errors that jump out from the page. Mistake! You must work with a definite plan that helps you to search systematically for specific kinds of errors.
The proofreading process becomes more efficient as you develop and practice a systematic strategy. You’ll learn to identify the specific areas of your own writing that need careful attention, and knowing that you have a method for finding errors will help you to focus more on developing your ideas while you are drafting the paper.
It Takes a Little Extra Time, But it Pays Off in The End
If you know that you have an effective way to catch errors when the paper is almost finished, you can worry less about editing while you are writing your first drafts. This makes the entire writing process more efficient.
Keep the Editing and Proofreading Processes Separate
When you are editing an early draft, you don’t want to be bothered with thinking about punctuation, grammar, and spelling. If you’re worried about the spelling of a word or the placement of a comma, you’re not focusing on the more important task of developing and connecting ideas.
Tips For Effective Proofreading
Experiment with different tactics until you find a system that works well for you. You probably already use some of the strategies discussed below. The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.
1. Proofread for Only One Kind of Error at a Time
If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won’t catch others.
2. Don’t Rely Entirely on Spelling Checkers
Spell checkers have a limited dictionary, so some words that show up as misspelt may really just not be in their memory. In addition, spell checkers will not catch misspellings that form another valid word.
For example, if you type “your” instead of “you’re,” “to” instead of “too,” or “there” instead of “their,” the spell checker won’t catch the error. Spell checkers can be useful tools but they are far from foolproof.
3. Problems With Grammar Checkers
These programs work with a limited number of rules, so they can’t identify every error and often make mistakes. They also fail to give thorough explanations to help you understand why a sentence should be revised.
Use a grammar checker to help you identify potential run-on sentences or too-frequent use of the passive voice, but you need to be able to evaluate the feedback it provides.
4. Try Reading out Loud
Read slow, and read every word. Say each word and hear how the words sound together. When you read silently or too quickly, you may skip over errors or make unconscious corrections.
5. Separate the Text into Individual Sentences
A simple technique that helps you to read every sentence carefully. Press the “enter key” after every period so that every line begins with a new sentence.
Now, read each sentence separately, looking for grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. If you’re working with a printed copy, try using an opaque object like a ruler or a piece of paper to isolate the line you’re working on.
6. Circle Punctuation Marks
This forces you to look at each one. As you circle, check if the punctuation is correct.
7. Check the Numbers
Stating that the value of the acquisition was $10,000 instead of $100,000 is definitely not the same thing. Make sure your numbers are correct.
8. Read it Backwards
This technique is helpful for a spell check. Start with the last word on the last page and work your way back to the beginning, reading each word separately. Because content, punctuation, and grammar won’t make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word.
Your brain has to figure out every single word, mistakes stick out like sore thumbs. Works like a charm.
You can also read backwards sentence by sentence to check grammar; this will help you avoid becoming distracted by content issues.
Proofreading is a learning process
You’re not just looking for errors that you recognize; you’re also learning to recognize and correct new errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in. Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you proofread.
Check it twice so if you want to become a better proofreader. You think you need a comma between two words, but you’re not sure why? Should you use “that” instead of “which”?
If you’re not sure about something, look it up.
If you’re going to spot mistakes, then you need to concentrate. That means getting rid of distractions and potential interruptions. Switch off the cell phone, turn off the television or radio and stay away from the email.
There are a lot of techniques to help us catch mistakes by making the brain work harder. I would be happy if I gave you a few more to add to the list.
Aida Behmen Milicevic
Content Developer & Translator, Passionate about Writing, Hiking, Delicious bites, Yoga and Biking.
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