Proofreading sounds easy. Just read through the article and put in a few commas and you’re done, right? Wrong! There is a lot more to proofreading than simply scanning through some text and making some arbitrary changes here and there. Read on to find out how to proofread like a pro.
Whether you are writing a web page, a magazine article, a novel, a university essay or a newsletter, creating error-free text is a vital step in effective communication.
You can use a spell checker on your word processor but this is not going to pick up all the errors, such as the wrong word with the correct spelling, errors in place names, abbreviations and inconsistencies in word usage.
This is where a proofreader comes in.
A proofreader can be an expert professional you hire for a job – or you can have a go yourself. No prizes for guessing which is the better choice. But if you really want to proofread your own text, there are a few pointers that can help you on your way.
Here are 10 tips for more effective proofreading
- Get focused
If you are going to notice small errors and correct them, you have to focus closely on the task at hand. Remove all potential distractions so you can concentrate fully without anything to get in the way. No side glances at social media accounts; no mobile phones; no cakes. Focus.
- Beware of homophones
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings. Homonyms are the same as homophones except the words also share the same spelling. Examples of homophones include complement and compliment, hear and here, there and their, and bear and bare.
- Read it aloud
Sometimes reading a piece of text out loud can help you spot mistakes. This is because when we read aloud we are forced to slow down, so errors become more obvious.
- Change the format
An article written on paper can look very different from the same article on a computer screen, which can look different again on a tablet. Then more different formats you can read your text in, the more errors you are likely to spot.
- Take care with apostrophes
Apostrophes are important in proofreading. Be careful not to mix up your and you’re or its and it’s, and of course look out for the dreaded apostrophe for plurals, such as apple’s.
- Check punctuation
Although punctuation isn’t everything, it is certainly something important in any piece of text. Do not neglect the punctuation in your article while focusing closely on the words.
- Keep it consistent
Consistency is key in proofreading. Even if you don’t have a style guide to work to, make sure you keep your changes consistent. So if you use a capital for a job title on one page, make sure you keep it capitalised on the next page.
- Read it backwards
Reading a text backwards can really help you pick up the odd mistake that is well hidden. By forcing our eyes to read in an unnatural way, spelling errors can jump out more easily.
- Slow right down
When we read regular text we can scan quickly through it. When proofreading it is vital that you take your time. Our eyes can ‘correct’ the text without us even noticing when reading at a regular pace. By slowing right down you are forced to read the words as they really are, not as you know they should be.
- One element at a time
For every piece of proofreading, you need to read it once to pick up mistakes in punctuation, once for mistakes in spelling, once for mistakes in grammar, and so on. Do not try to correct all the elements of the writing in one read-through and do not try to correct all the elements at the same time. Focus on one part of writing for each read-through.
The final read-through should be a general look for naturalness and should take in everything to make sure all your corrections work together as a whole.
Lastly, why not trust a professional? Contact us about your proofreading project and we will ensure your text is 100% error-free.