10 techniques for improving your proofreading

Having another set of eyes comb your text for errors and ambiguities is ideal, but if you must check your own writing, here are tested tactics for ferreting out typos and other gaffes.

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How about changing the oil in your own car, or baking every family member’s birthday cake from scratch?

You probably don’t do many, if any, of those things—and you shouldn’t proofread your own writing, either.

Proofreading is a specialized job requiring someone with talent and training. I’m not a natural proofreader myself, but I know how to hire excellent ones. They should cost about $40 per hour.

If I must proofread, I do it using the following tricks. You can use them, too:

1. Let time pass after you finish writing/editing and before you start proofreading. We all make unconscious mistakes, and they are hard to spot because our brains “fill in” the correct word. You may have meant to write trickier, but somehow it came out as tricker. The trouble is, if you’re familiar with the story, your eye will glide right past the error. If you take a break, however, you’re far more likely to catch the mistake.

2. Print out your text, and proofread on paper. In part because using a computer shines light into our eyes, we all read material on screen much more quickly and less carefully than we do in print. When possible, print out your work before proofing it.

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