Proofreading Tips

[tweetmeme source=@FirstForCopy only_single=false]

Proofreading is the art of reading written work and spotting and correcting any errors. Regardless of whether you are sending a quick email, filling in an application form, drafting a letter or writing a page of web copy, you should always check what you have written to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors in the work before you release it to colleagues, clients or potential employers.

We are only human and so we may occasionally write “there” when we mean “their” or “it’s” when we mean “its” ~ which is why proofreading your written piece before you finalise it is imperative.

I have compiled some proofreading tips, below, to help you proofread with confidence.

  1. Proofread your way
    You can choose to proofread your documents on or off-screen. Track Changes in Word is a useful tool for quick and easy proofreading on-screen but sometimes it is easier ~ or preferable ~ to print off the document and mark any changes on the paper before going back to the PC to make the amends. With larger written works like books, you will often receive a hard copy only.
    I normally use Track Changes when I am proofreading pieces for clients ~ except for long documents or super-complex work, when I prefer to make the proofreading marks on the printed version.
  2. Peace and quiet
    You need to be able to concentrate when you are proofreading so make sure you are in a quiet place. If you work in an office, this probably means taking yourself off to an empty meeting room, away from ringing phones and chattering colleagues.
    I always turn my music off when I am proofreading ~ for writing creative copy, I need cheesy tracks; research and writing academic pieces require classical music.
  3. Borrow a pair of eyes
    If you are close to the piece of writing you are trying to proofread, this can make it difficult to spot any mistakes. You know exactly what should be in front of you and sometimes your eyes fool you into thinking what should be there is there.  It’s surprising how even the most glaring errors can be missed when you’re proofreading your own work ~ so always ask another person (a friend, colleague, sister, business partner, anyone) to read through your written work.
  4. Say it out loud
    If you are ever unsure about a word or a sentence, the best thing to do is read it out loud to yourself. Listen to the words as you speak them and this will help you to spot inconsistencies, loss of clarity in the sentence structure, spelling errors or homonyms (words that share the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings, for example “complement” and “compliment”, “affect” and “effect”, and “air” and “heir”).
  5. Divide the proofreading into sections
    When you are proofreading, it helps to separate the different mistakes you are looking for into sections and focus on them one at a time. For example, I always read through the document first very slowly and intensely, checking for any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or misplaced punctuation marks. The second read-through is for consistency ~ does it flow? Is the style of language the same in the beginning, middle and end? The third read-through is for layout ~ font size, headings, margins, spaces etc. The final read-through is for certainty ~ has anything escaped my eye?

I hope these proofreading tips are helpful. If you have any queries or would like to discuss a proofreading project with First For Copy, please just get in touch ~ visit, email or call First For Copy on 01162 751 982.

4 Responses to “Proofreading Tips”

  1. 1 Mike Garner January 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I always proof on screen these days, paper and ink are getting expensive!

    Never proof straight after writing a text, if possible, sleep on it. Zooming to 200% or more is a good way of highlighting errors. I also get my Mac to read text back to me. Combine all that and you’ll get everything.

    • 2 firstforcopy January 25, 2010 at 11:07 am

      I agree, Mike ~ printing off proofreading documents can be costly but sometimes it’s necessary. And great advice re leaving some time after writing a piece before returning to proofread it. Thanks for your comments :0)

  2. 3 Dave July 10, 2010 at 4:55 am

    Great advice! Proofreading is a good writer’s bread and butter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Copywriting, Editing and Proofreading Stuff

First For Copy on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: