One of the most arduous aspects of writing is having to proofread your own work. Pretty much every writer hates doing it, but it is necessary to give your writing that final polish and to make sure there aren’t any grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, among other things. Guest contributor Joan Selby offers seven valuable tips for proof reading your own work.
Some writers find a solution to the challenge of proofreading by using grammar-checking apps, which certainly speed up the process, but which are still nowhere close to real human editors, which means they should be used as your last resort. There is, of course, the possibility of hiring a real editor from an editing service, but while they are good, they are also expensive, which means you are left with only one real choice: doing it yourself. The trouble is, it’s hard reviewing and proofreading your own work objectively, which is why we have put together a list of tips every author should go through when they are proofreading and editing their writing.
1. Step Away from It for a Bit
Even though you are probably eager to get proofreading as soon as possible, a better idea would be to let your work rest for at least a few hours, or even days, if you have the time, before you go about checking it. This way, you will be able to approach with a fresh mind, and a fresh pair of eyes, which always results in finding more errors, and that is the ultimate goal. Proofreading your work right after you have just finished writing is not a good practice, so if you can avoid it, please do so.
2. Read Your Work Out Loud
Most writers, when proofreading their work, will go about it pretty quietly, without ever uttering a single word. A more reliable way of doing it would be to read your work slowly and out loud. When you do it that way, not only will you be capable of doing it more thoroughly, but you will also spot more mistakes which aren’t immediately obvious. Some sentences and paragraphs need to be read out loud in order for you to realize that there is something wrong with them.
3. Start Proofreading It Backwards
One of the clever little tricks of editing is to do it backwards. You see, when you proofread your work in a way it will be read, which is from the top down, you will be tempted to speed it up, and you will probably lose focus after a while, and some mistakes will inevitably slip past you. When you start proofreading your work backwards, this approach will cause you to concentrate more, because you won’t get distracted by the natural flow of your work. You will only focus on what’s there on the page.
4. Check Your Writing Again
Although you will probably find enough will power to proofread your work once, you will probably hate the idea of doing it yet again. Unfortunately for you, this is one of the most effective ways of making that your writing is absolutely perfect, and free of any stylistic or grammar errors. Again, you can start proofreading it backwards, or by choosing random sections in order to fully focus on the task ahead of you. In the end, you will end up with a piece of writing that is virtually spotless, as if it was checked by a professional editor.
5. Read What Is Actually on the Page
The reason why you should do all of the stuff described above, such as reading your work out loud, or going through it backwards, is because we often tend to see and “read” stuff that isn’t there. We know what the sentence should sound like, and we proceed to read it that way, instead of the way it is written on the page. It is an extremely common occurrence, and one which is responsible for most errors that slip under the writer’s radar. So, focus on reading what’s there, word for word. It’s as simple as that.
6. Create a List of Common Errors You Make
Every writer has a list of errors they repeat through each and every one of their works, which is why it might a good idea to create an actual list of those errors, and use it as tool with which you will check your writing. Let that be your first-pass filter of sorts. Check to see if there are any errors you tend to make all the time using the list, and then start proofreading your work in its entirety.
7. Ask Someone to Help You Out
It’s one thing to proofread your own work with a fresh pair of eyes, after you have stepped away from it for a while, but having an actual second pair of eyes go through your writing with you is another. If you are still not sure that your writing is 100% free of errors, ask a fellow writer, editor, or someone you trust to help you out and double-check your work. Sometimes, even reading your own work out loud in front of a friend can help you realize that there are some mistakes you haven’t been able to spot the first time around.
While we agree that proofreading is tedious and boring, we will also agree that it is an absolute must. It would be a shame for an otherwise good piece of writing to be diminished by annoying grammar and spelling errors, so always set aside enough time to check your work.
Joan Selby is a content marketer at Edugeeksclub.com and blogger from sunny California. Former teacher and fancy shoe lover. A writer by day and reader by night. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.