9 tips for better proofreading

If you find that mistakes are slipping through despite your best efforts, try these techniques to strengthen your shield against errors.

Proofreading can be tough.

It can seem like no matter how much you read and re-read your content, errors still get through. On the Web, these errors can be corrected easily enough, but in print, that’s another story.

Next time you are tasked with proofreading a project, consider the following tips:

1. Avoid getting bored. Though proofing requires extreme focus and concentration, it can be boring. Try something that relieves your mind of the pressure, but enables you to stay focused. This could be chewing gum, tapping your foot, or listening to classical music.

2. Get another set of eyes. The more familiar something is, the less we tend to notice it. This is why you can review something 10 times and still not notice that half a sentence is missing. You expect the sentence to be there. Have someone unfamiliar with your project review it and serve as your sanity check.

3. Know your weaknesses. We tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly. Know your weak spot and compensate for it. For example, complete a separate “graphics check” if you have a tendency to overlook page numbers, headers, footers, or other graphic elements.

4. The “source” writer is the worst possible choice to review the work. You can miss glaring errors because you are overly familiar with the work. Again, have a disinterested third party review the draft.

5. Check for only one type of error at a time. For example, when checking for spelling errors, resist the urge to look for and correct any punctuation errors. Focus on one thing at a time.

6. Don’t just check your work on the screen. Print a copy and check the work, ideally using strong, natural lighting.

7. Don’t even consider proofreading when you’re tired or stressed. If you’re distracted or inattentive, you’re wasting your time trying to proofread. Unless you are on a tight deadline, set aside a specific time of day for proofing.

8. Find a quiet area to reduce distractions. Tell your co-workers that you are proofing and need time and space to concentrate.

9. Read your text out loud. This is another way to help catch errors that your eyes may overlook.

Download this free white paper to discover 10 ways you can improve your writing today.

Any other proofreading tips to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.

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