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Proofreading Tips (Or How to Not Turn Off Your Reader)

17th July 2012 Posted in Blog, Editing 7 Comments

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Let’s be honest – audiences can be challenging, especially when they pick up on a mistake in a book (or article or blog post).  The presence of a mistake can lead to a lack of trust in the writer and a lack of trust in the information being presented.

Writers (and reviewers) should take note of these proofreading tips:

  • Review the document backwards – Because a writer may already be overly familiar with a document (having spent time researching and writing it), reviewing it in reverse order can sometimes help the brain slow down and notice errors more easily.
  • Look at the printed document – When the document is taken away from a computer screen, errors can be more glaring. Print out the document to see if anything needs to be adjusted and to see the document as a user will see it (if you are delivering printed materials).
  • Read the document aloud – The writer’s brain often subconsciously fills in the ‘right’ words when reading something.  By reading the material aloud, errors in style and word choice are easier to hear/find. This is especially helpful for longer sentences that may not be identified as a problem when reading.
  • Get an outside perspective – With more than one person reviewing a document, it becomes easier for the document’s errors to be found, corrected, and addressed. A ‘second set of eyes’ is an asset to any writer.

Everyone makes mistakes. But those mistakes don’t have to end up in the final copy that users see. Or, at least, they shouldn’t.

Do you have some proofreading tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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  1. By Andrea Bishopon 17th, July 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I love your tips! Thank you.

    My tip is don’t try to do everything at once. Break the proofreading up into smaller tasks, so you can focus more clearly on the errors in the document. Do one proof for spelling, one proof for spacing, one proof for numbered steps, one proof for captions, and so on. It makes proofreading go faster, yet enables you to catch more.

  2. By editoron 17th, July 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for weighing in, Andrea!

  3. By ulyssesmsuon 27th, July 2012 at 4:03 pm

    You’re giving tips about proofreading from a professional perspective, but you have an error in your text–? “Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear them” is a comma-splice error, a “run-on” sentence.

  4. By editoron 27th, July 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Kind of points out the importance of proofreading, doesn’t it?

  5. By Best Proofreaderson 17th, December 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Backward reading is necessary because when you read a document backward you read each and every word very carefully. so the probability of catching a typo increases.

  6. By John Smithon 19th, March 2015 at 6:00 am

    Nice tips for proofreading thanks
    It will help me a lot while proofreading.

  7. By Jay Winteron 25th, December 2015 at 12:16 am

    Thank you for the tips. And blog author, while I realize the ‘mistake’ has been corrected, I hope you have not wasted one minute with self-doubt, criticism or despair for the ‘dasterdly’ ‘comma-splice error.’ I am frequently frustrated that we as editors are skewered for any infinitesimal mistake, no matter how big, small, real or imagined, when all we are simply trying to do is give generously of our hearts, and offer nuggets of advice when they come to us.

    When the day comes that my status as a “professional editor” means I have to hyper-analyze EVERY word that leaves my body AS IF I WERE AT WORK, with all the obsessive-compulsive disorder of A Rainman — that will be the day I won’t bother trying to help anyone at all. Just some ‘food for thought’ (if you can forgive my egregious lazy use of a pun,) Mr. UlyssessMSU.

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