Sharpening your skills at proofreading will make you a better writer and an asset to any business. Proofreading is a valuable skill to have and there are many ways to easily improve your proofreading skills.
I’ve compiled a list of things that I look for or do as I’m proofreading my articles and submissions. I usually perform all of these functions at least once while I’m proofreading. Sometimes, I focus on one item such as spelling and ignore everything else as I concentrate on spelling only. I tend to proofread an article 6-8 times before submitting it.
Proofreading your spelling is a must for all writers and is one of the most common errors in writing. The first step every writer should do is run your content through spellcheck. It doesn’t matter what spellcheck program you use. Every program will catch most of your errors, however, no program will catch all of your errors.
After using your spellcheck program, you will need to manually proofread your content. There is no spellcheck program on the market that will catch a word that’s in the wrong context in your writing. For instance, words such as ‘their’ and ‘there’ will pass your spellcheck program because they are spelled correctly. However, if your sentence reads, “There bicycles are new,” instead of, “Their bicycles are new,” then you need to manually correct ‘there’ to ‘their’. Another common word to watch out for is “its” and “it’s”. Both will pass spellcheck, but you need to double check and make sure it’s the right context.
Read Your Content Out Loud
This sounds a bit strange, but sometimes when you read something out loud, your mind will send up red flags that something doesn’t sound right. It could be the wording, it could be using past tense with present tense, it could be using a plural noun instead of a singular noun, or it maybe it’s not coming across as clear and concise as you’d like it to be. Whatever it is, make adjustments and read it out loud again to make sure it’s what you want and understandable to the reader.
Print Your Content
As simple as this sounds, this is a great proofreading technique. Your eyes actually focus better on a written document than on the computer, so you’re apt to catch more mistakes. You can cross out words, add text, see misspellings better, and see how your content will look on paper. I know it’s not a ‘green’ process, however, it is a great proofreading technique.
Proofreading Your Word Content
I always reread my content at least once looking specifically at the word content. Changing words or sentences from past tense to present tense whenever possible or from singular to plural are things that I look for. Use the help of the Yahoo! Style Guide’s Editing 101 or Word List section. The Word List section has great advice on word usage and you will probably find an answer there. If not, Yahoo! does have an Ask the Editor link that you can use. To access this writing resource, just click on Yahoo! Style Guide.
Ask Someone Else to Read Your Content
Family members, spouses, roommates, friends, and neighbors are all excellent resources for helping you with proofreading. It’s always good to get someone else’s point of view. They will not only catch some misspelled words that you may have missed, but they may make suggestions on the wording of a sentence or two that will be more concise. They may even suggest another point that you don’t have in your content.
By using this proofreading technique, think of the other person as a reader of your content giving you constructive criticism because that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re actually one of your readers helping you out. A reader proofreading your content will add fresh suggestions to what you’ve already proofread several times and will probably catch several things that you’ve missed.
The proofreading techniques listed are the ones that I consistently use whenever I’m writing. As I mentioned in Proofreading 101, I will proofread an article 6-8 times before submitting it. Proofreading is a writer’s friend and a valuable asset to have.
Source: Personal Experience
Yahoo! Style Guide