Simple Proofreading and Editing Tips for Writing Perfection
There is no denying that there are people who have a special knack for spotting errors. However, even if you aren’t one of these specially gifted people, there are practices that can help you catch more of your mistakes, if not all of them.
Read Hard Copy: This is the number-one tip. Every time you proofread a document, read a hard copy rather than an on-screen copy. Errors on hard copy are easier to spot and seem more real.
Spell Check: Use the spell checker, but don’t trust it. Remember, spell check is a program, not a human being. As Brendan Hills wrote, “Dew knot trussed yore spell chequer two fined awl yore mistakes.”
Grammar Check: As a tool, the grammar checker is of limited value. A human writer generally makes better word choices than those a grammar checker makes. Again, this is a product to use, but remember its limitations.
Reading Backward: This is a time-tested method for checking a document. The idea is to start at the last word of the document and read toward the top from the right. This practice forces you to read the material out of context and assists in catching errors otherwise overlooked.
Recording: You will definitely hear logical and usage errors when you listen to the playback. Word redundancies, especially, will stick out.
Distance in Time and Space: Proofreading your own document is difficult because of the question of ownership. If you have the luxury of putting the document away for a day or two before reviewing it, you will catch many more of the errors that you inadvertently wrote. You will catch more of these problems because the lapse in time makes the prose less yours to your subconscious mind.
Numbers: After you have checked numbers twice, check them two more times. Numbers are the easiest thing to transpose, and numerical errors are the most difficult to catch.
Special note: When checking numbers derived from outside data, check the original numbers and the processes you used to generate those numbers, even if the original numbers and the steps of derivation are not included in the main document.
Abbreviations: Be certain that abbreviations are correct. Also make certain that when you list a Web page, you get the right domain on the page address. There may be a big difference between a Web page with a “.org” and a Web page with the same name but a “.com” domain.
Don’t risk all of your hard work being dismissed because of a writing goof that’s easy to make and even easier to avoid!