Six Proofreading Tips

Effective proofreading is a unique skill and there isn’t a foolproof formula that works every time. And in most jobs, people find themselves responsible for proofreading text for their organization sooner or later.

Our eyes can jump ahead and something happens in the brain that morphs words together when in fact there can be a glaring error. These errors can go undetected under the proofreader’s microscope; however, I offer a few tips that have helped me out before submitting a final text.

Before starting be aware of the style notes; for example, US or CAD spelling; spelling out numbers one to nine; use numerals for 10 and over; and so on.

1. If time allows, after you’ve finished writing, set the text aside and proofread it with fresh eyes a few hours later, or the following day.

2. Review a hard copy. Print it off and read it line by line using a ruler to block out the words on the line so you’re forced to read slowly.

3. Read the text aloud. You may hear a missing word that you failed to see.

4. Make sure you have the right word; for example, their, they’re or there.

5. Read your text backward, from right to left. This will help you focus on individual words rather than sentences.

6. Create a checklist. See below for some examples.

  • Does each sentence have the correct end punctuation?
  • Did I use commas correctly?
  • Did I punctuate dialogue correctly?
  • Did I use capitalization correctly?

The extra effort may appear neurotic, but it generally pays off – especially for our readers!