Improving Your Proofreading by Daphne Gray-Grant

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In Writers
Feb 20th, 2013
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reading 2The final step in editing is proofreading.  This is a category of its own, for which I offer the following advice:

  1. Try to allow at least one day to pass after you finish writing and before you start proofing. This will give you the necessary distance to catch unconscious mistake, such as typing now for know or triker for trickier.

  2. You will catch more errors if you print out your text and proofread on paper. The human eye reads material onscreen much more quickly and less carefully. Print out your work before proofing it.

  3. If there is some reason that prevents you from printing, use a distinctive typeface and bump up the point size before proofing. When I have to proof onscreen, I use Papyrus 20 point–this makes it easier to catch errors.

  4. Question all “facts,” paying particular attention to names (people, places, books, movies, songs), addresses, titles and dates. Be aware the single most common mistake is to mismatch days with dates. (Example: Tuesday, July 4, when in fact it is Wednesday, July 4.)

  5. Be especially careful with the big, obvious, yet somehow “invisible” stuff. A few months ago, I nearly signed off on a brand-new publication. The problem? We’d misspelled the client’s name at the top of the front page! Three of us, including a professional proofreader, had managed to miss this hugely embarrassing error. Fortunately, someone else caught the mistake before it was too late. My printing rep laughed and said this happens all the time because people overlook proofreading the obvious.

  6. Start at the end. Professional proofreaders often read at least once backwards. That is, they begin at the end and work back through the piece, paragraph by paragraph or even line by line.  Even better, if you have time and a willing friend, share proofreading tasks. (It’s easier to catch mistakes in someone else’s work.)

  7. Put a ruler under each line as you read the text. This stops your eye from jumping ahead to the next line.

  8. Consider your text from a customer’s perspective. For instance, if the piece is an invitation requiring an RSVP, it needs a phone number or e-mail address to which someone could respond. And, of course, it should have the date of the event and an address.

  9. Make a list of your own common errors and check for those specifically (“its” instead of “it’s” is a big problem for some people, for example).

  10. Read your work aloud at least once. You’ll catch a lot more errors this way.

© Daphne Gray-Grant.  This set of Top Ten Productivity Tips for Writers is excerpted (with permission) from Daphne’s excellent book (Meggin’s comment) 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better.  Daphne Gray-Grant is The Publication Coach and you can access her book and sign up for her VERY helpful (again, Meggin’s comment) weekly newsletter at Publication Coach.  Writers will find her site, materials, and coaching helpful.

If you liked these tips and would like over 560 practical, immediately-implementable tips to read, print, and/or post as reminders, then you will want the Top Ten Productivity Tips – The Collection, available to access and download right away! Inside this full-color, 108-page productivity manual, you’ll find several hundred tips covering topics such as meetings, workspace organization, planning your day, effective delegation, and how to keep your mind focused on your work. With these clever tips in hand, you’ll be more peacefully and predictably productive than you’ve ever been.

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