Five secrets of better proofreading

iStock_000016691315XSmall-w240Proofreading can be a time-consuming task. Being a good proofreader requires being thorough and accurate. Letting even a few errors slip through the cracks can be a source of embarrassment for any writer. Since most writers do not want to let proofreading cut into their writing time, finding a balance between speed and quality is important. Using the following suggestions can help you speed up your proofreading process without diminishing the quality of your efforts:

  1. Create a checklist. Organize your proofreading efforts by writing down all the areas you will need to cover. A checklist can cover things such as grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation. Simply check off each item on the list once you have completed it.
  2. Do a preliminary read. Rather than diving right into the document, briefly read over it once before starting your actual proofreading. Make a note of what stands out and come back to it when you start. It will help guide your efforts so you know where to focus your energies when you proofread.
  3. Work smart. Tackle each problem one at a time. If you try to fix everything at once, you will miss errors. Focusing on a specific area such as spelling or punctuation can actually speed up the process and enhance your proofreading skills because you will be able to pinpoint specific mistakes faster.
  4. Allow for breaks. When you are working with longer documents, it helps to divide the time spent on proofreading into small time blocks. Attempting to carry out the proofreading process nonstop can deplete your energy and make it much harder to get the job done. Allow yourself time to take a break every 15 to 30 minutes. Working in short bursts can help you stay focused long enough to get through your document.
  5. Perform a final check. Quick proofreading the first time through does not mark the end of the editing process. It is important to read it through a final time after you have finished the bulk of the proofreading. This is simply an insurance policy to ensure you catch any stray errors you might have missed the first time.

With these tips, you can accurately polish a document with minimal time. Knowing how to proofread quickly yet effectively will allow you to spend more of your time devoted to writing.

About the author: Randall Davidson is a cofounder of ProofreadingServices.Us, a proofreading company that offers business proofreading. Randall enjoys discussing proofreading and editing tips and best practices with other writers.

,

9 Responses to Five secrets of better proofreading

  1. David August 8, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    Useful tips, Matthew.

    Some further ideas, won through bitter experience:

    1) Get somebody else to do your proofing. Fresh eyes catch mistakes.

    2) Divorce text from meaning by proofing backwards.

    3) Print off your content and proof from the physical page.

    4) Make it a game (though admittedly not a particularly fun one). Assume each page contains one error, and play “find the mistake”.

  2. Randall August 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    @David: Thank you very much for the additional suggestions. They’re great!

  3. Michael Kenward August 14, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Good stuff.

    By coincidence, I recently flailed away at a truly atrocious piece of proofreading. Could be a good case study and/or training exercise.

    Michael Kenward: What does proof reading prove?

    The governent chief scientist, no less, allowed out his “Government Office for Science Annual Review 2010-11″ with so many errors that you wonder if anyone bothered to proofread it.

    Government Office for Science Annual Review 2010-11

    Still, the government has saved money on paying consultants to do the work.

  4. Will Blackstock September 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Thanks for the post, Randall. I haven’t tried proofing with a checklist before, but I’ll definitely have to give it a go next time.

    I definitely agree with David, too. Having someone else look over things is invaluable. The more you read a text, the more familiar it gets and, perhaps paradoxically, I think you’re actually less likely to spot mistakes in it.

  5. George Wilson December 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    This is a good, structured approach and exactly how we approach proofreading our blog.

  6. Donal February 15, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Always prefer proofreading in morning because that time the mind remain fresh and concentration power gets increases.
    Quality Proofreaders

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1.   Weekly links roundup by Communications from DMN - September 2, 2011

    [...] Matthew Stibbe offers five secrets to better proofreading [...]

  2. Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in online sales - Bad Language - January 23, 2013

    [...] to avoid this type of mistake, invest in better proofreading, avoid writing mistakes that make you look unprofessional and train your staff to write [...]

  3. Cheat sheet: we're giving away our proofreading checklist - March 27, 2014

    […] Davidson wrote on here about the five secrets of better proofreading, but a lot of people tend to get stuck at number one: create a checklist. He’s not the only […]

Leave a Reply