“Phew!” It feels great to complete that piece of writing. Right?
What’s next? Proofreading.
You’ve revised your content.
You’ve edited it.
It’s time to give your written work a final check before you hit the publish button.
This final stage of editing requires attention to detail and intense focus–since you want your content free of blunders that can distract your readers.
Besides, you get to evaluate your writing and eliminate errors in:
- Spelling and typos
- Omitted or repeated words
- Spacing and formatting
With the following proofreading tips, you’ll be creating error-free content in no time.
#1. Watch Out for Homonyms
A common source of blunder occurs in writing with using the wrong word that sounds the same as the one you planned to use.
Catch mistakes with homonyms (such as “bear” instead of “bare”) by examining each word in the paper individually.
#2. Read the Document out Aloud
Does it sound right?
One way to catch errors in your piece is by reading out what you’ve written. A sentence might make sense as you type it out. Convert it to speech; you might discover that it needs improvement.
Do you want to ensure you have conveyed your thoughts and ideas with the right words and phrases? Check how the text sounds when it’s read aloud.
#3. Avoid the Passive Voice
If there’s one grammar aspect you should note, it’s the active voice. Overusing the passive voice in your content can hurt its readability score.
Example: The passive voice makes your sentences wordy. (Active)
Your sentences are made wordy by the passive voice. (Passive).
The passive form required two more words to express the same message. That’s wordiness. Moreover, it makes the meaning less clear.
#4. Proofreading Requires Concentration
Find a quiet place to work.
Proofreading in front of the TV or where there are distractions can make you miss obvious errors in your work. The document requires your utmost concentration. It’s, therefore, advisable to work somewhere where you won’t be interrupted.
#5. Ensure You’ve Used Apostrophes Properly
Possessives and contractions can be tricky. Skim your content for incorrect use. Pay attention to apostrophe “troublemakers” such as who’s (who is)/ whose (the possessive form of “whom”).
Do you need help with apostrophes? Here is a helpful resource.
#6. Let Someone Read It to You
Someone once said, “The ears are great copyeditors.” Hearing your words from a third party can increase the chances of identifying the parts that need improvement. You’ll discover if your phrases are awkward or you’ve missed some words.
Having another person read to you, or using a text-to-speech app, is great for checking whether your writing is coherent.
#7. Change Your View
On which medium do you proofread most carefully?
Consider proofreading on a hard copy instead of the screen. Some people identify errors better when they sit back with a printed copy than when they work at the computer. Besides, reviewing a hard copy lets you mark up mistakes as you read.
Alternatively, export the text to PDF, and open it on the web browser or PDF reader.
#8. Read the Text Backwards
Want a proofreading technique that lets you pay attention to every little detail in your content? Check out this advice:
“Read your paper backward, sentence by sentence, as a final proofreading step. This technique isolates each sentence and makes it easier to spot errors you may have overlooked in previous readings.” — Claire B. May and Gordon S. May
This method forces you to take things out of context–to concentrate on the text instead of the ideas.
#9. Note Your Frequent Errors
What mistakes do you make the most?
Whether you always miss the difference between “it’s” and “its”, or type “compliment” instead of “complement”, write down your most consistent blunders.
Create a list and search for these errors using the “find” feature in your Word processor. With time, you’ll be able to eliminate these slipups in your writing.
#10. Proofread Your Headlines and Subheadings
Imagine going through your piece after you’ve published it, and realizing you’ve overlooked mistakes in your subheads.
We often spend a lot of time editing our content that it’s easy to miss errors in the subheads. Besides paying attention to the body text, you should also check your headlines and subheadings.
#11. Don’t Leave the Job for Automated Tools
Many people rely on spell checkers and grammar checkers to perfect their writing. However, automated tools are not enough.
Word-Processing programs are great for catching errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style. But they cannot find and fix all the mistakes in your document. For instance, they won’t help with some proper names or improper use of homonyms.
#12. Leave the Text for a While
You might have heard this advice before. Proofreading your document immediately you finish writing can make you overlook blunders.
The reason is not far-fetched. Your mind skips over a lot of mistakes since you recently worked on the text.
If possible, leave the piece of writing for a couple of days—or hours–before checking for errors. Engage in other activities and come back to the content with “fresh eye”.
#13. Change the Look of Your Document
It’s always useful to alter the appearance of the text you’re proofreading when you need a new perspective. You are familiar with the writing. So, changing the style, font, or color can trick your brain into thinking that you’re reading another document.
#14. Examine Each Type of Mistake Separately
Create a proofreading checklist to make the exercise more effective. Then examine the document for each type of mistake — one after the other. You’re more likely to identify errors without difficulty. For instance, you can start with subject/verb agreement (that is, ensure the main verb in each sentence agrees with the subject in number).
#15. Consult Your Dictionary
It’s essential to have your resources such as dictionaries and style guides at hand as you proofread. They can help when you’re not able to memorize every grammar or writing rule.
Not sure about something? Look it up.
#16. Sleep on It
Skimming a piece of writing for errors requires a lot of concentration. For this reason, you should proofread when you’re most alert. Get some rest if you’re too tired to focus. Chances are you’ll come back to the text refreshed and extra attentive.
#17. Get Feedback from Others
Don’t underestimate another pair of eyes.
So, you’ve done your best to eliminate all the mistakes in your content. Great! It’s time to take a breather.
Or….you can ask someone else to check it.
Since you’re a part of your writing, it can be difficult to view it critically. When you seek other people’s opinion, you get viewpoints and insights you may have missed otherwise.
Moreover, feedback from others can help improve your writing.
#18. Get the Experts
The best of us need help when it comes to proofreading—even some expert editors prefer that others critique their work.
Whether you’re writing an article, a business email, website copy, or fiction, you want to create a good impression with your readers. A proofreader can help turn your piece of writing into a masterpiece.
Let’s Wrap It Up (Not “Lets” of Course)
Grammatical and spelling errors can hurt your brand’s credibility.
Moreover, proofreading is as rewarding as it is challenging. Correcting your booboos can help improve your writing. You’re not only checking for mistakes; you’re also learning to avoid such errors in the future.
These proofreading tips can help you identify and fix errors in a timely and effective manner.
Do you need a second dedicated pair of eyes to review your final draft to ensure consistency in punctuation, grammar, spelling, and formatting? Proofreading Pros is a one-click copyediting and proofreading service inside Google Docs. Try out the service by signing up for a 7-day trial editing, and get your first 1,000 words checked for free.