Effective Proofreading Tips

proofreading-red-pencilOffering business writing skills training programs, writeTrain® and instructor-led workshops, I periodically check topics our course covers. Lately I’ve been looking at proofreading. (This may or may not have been the result of an embarrassing mistake I made recently, but I digress.)

After writing, most of us tend to give it a once-over and hit the send button. That’s usually enough, and certainly the colored squiggles that show up under words in our email and word processing programs will draw us to the extra space, misspelled word, or minor grammatical error. We make the quick fixes, and off it goes.

But, there is actually a smarter way to do this that can save you from rewriting, having to clarify your intent, or later realizing you’ve made an error that distracts your reader. In doing a search, I found some helpful advice from the Daily Writing Tips’ 8 Proofreading Tips and Techniques, The Writer’s Handbook’s How to Proofread, The BioMedical Editor’s My 15 Best Proofreading Tips, Shane Arthur’s 14 Foolproof Proofreading Tips for Bloggers.

  • In your document preparation planning, allot a specific time frame for writing and another later time for proofreading.
  • Proofreading is a tedious, slow process, requiring serious concentration. Don’t attempt to proofread if you are tired, rushed or distracted. Take breaks when necessary.
  • Work from a printout of the document initially versus from a computer screen – “errors missed on screen often jump out on paper.”
  • Use a ruler or sheet of paper for scrolling the page one line at a time and a colored pen to highlight errors.
  • Check the big content issues – flow of main ideas and supporting details, the order of information in tables, the accuracy of illustrations, math, notations and symbols.
  • Check the small details such as spelling, punctuation, contractions, apostrophes and word choice (confirm that words with similar spelling but have different meanings are used correctly).
  • Use spellcheck, Grammarly other online resources
  • After reviewing a document, evaluate it one more time, read it backwards and have someone else read it.

The real issue is making certain that you follow a routine to ensure that all details of your document are correct and are conveying your message as intended.

Proofreading is one of the topics covered in the 5-Step Writing Process, included in our instructor-led workshops and also in writeTrain®.