In a previous post, Surely We Can Edit Our Own Writing, I talked about why it is well-nigh impossible to edit your own work perfectly.
However, what if you don’t have the time (or the money) to employ a professional proofreader to do it for you?
Below are six hot tips for proofreading words you have written yourself. Using them individually is handy; combining them is even better. These are the strategies I use myself with my own writing, and I’m happy to share them but beware: while they are useful and can be effective—they are not foolproof.
1) Let it rest
If you have time, leave your writing to mellow for a bit—at least a week, if you can. This gives your brain a rest and allows you to see your writing with fresh eyes.
2) Change the font
For some reason, changing the font on your online document tricks the brain and can help you find errors you’ve missed. Make sure the change is considerable—moving from Times New Roman to Arial isn’t as effective as Times New Roman to Curlz. Changing the colour may also help.
3) Read it aloud
Reading silently allows the brain to approximate words, read what it thinks you’ve written and skim past those typos. When you read your work aloud, you have that extra factor of transferring what your brain sees to spoken words. It helps to hear where the punctuation should be and helps you realise when your sentences are way too long.
4) Print it
Reading your words in hard copy format (and preferably in a different room if you can) tricks the brain a bit. It also helps you to be a bit more tactile by using your finger to track the words on the page as you read.
5) Read it a different way
Remember, you’re checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar—not for meaning. This allows you to do things like reading your paragraphs out of order, reading the copy backwards, or using a focus strip so you can only read one line at a time.
6) Make use of free proofreading tools
The spellcheck function in Word is a no brainer, but other online proofreading/editing tools (like Grammarly) often have free versions. Of course, these don’t check for issues such as homophone mix-ups. And remember, there’s a reason they are free.
Before you embark on your proofreading journey, ask yourself two questions:
If the answer to either of those questions is no—consider employing a professional proofreader. It is money well spent.