Proofing your own work can be difficult, not to mention time-consuming. Check out these tips to help you proofread your work like a pro.
If you write, you edit. It’s just the way things work. The problem is that after a while about the third read through, the words start to blur together. I believe the technical term is word blind. Regardless, of what it’s called it’s horrifying to publish a post or other document only to read through it later and find it riddled with typos.
Don’t get me wrong. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and they’re to be expected. It’s a rare day that I read a blog post from start to finish and don’t find at least one error. That’s because unless the blogger had a team of people reading over his/her shoulder (if so, I’ll try not to be jealous), they had to do the editing all by themselves.
It can be hard to catch every little nuance even if you are a professional writer who’s been doing it for a decade or longer. I’ve read all the tips too. I don’t see what reading a paper upside-down or backward will do other than give you a headache. Some of the advice being given just isn’t practical for someone who writes for a living.
But the good news is that there are several options that will help you proofread your work like a pro!
Use a Grammar Checker
Word has one built in, although it isn’t the best. Another great option is Grammarly. I have been using the paid version of Grammarly to proof all of my documents for the past year and while there are a few that get through, it catches a lot of typos.
Don’t take that to mean that you should rely on Word or some other grammar checker as your only way of proofing your documents because even though humans err often, they ain’t got nothing on computer software.
That’s why I listed this as the first option because it should be where you begin, not where you end.
Use a Good Dictionary and Thesaurus
I practically have Merriam-Webster on speed dial. Not really, but I do have their website at the top of my bookmarked pages. Having a good dictionary handy is key to ensuring that you’re using the right word in the right context. And, having a thesaurus ensures that you’re not using the same adjectives over and over. Also, Word’s synonym feature works in a pinch.
Read Your Work Aloud
Have you seen that meme going around Facebook where every other word is missing? Apparently, you’re smart if you can read it. While I like to consider myself smart, everyone I know was able to read it too. The reason why is because your mind will automatically fill in the blank on sentences as you’re reading.
The way to work around your mind’s auto-correct function is to actually speak the words. While your brain might not catch the error as you see it, your ears will catch it as you hear it spoken.
Use Text to Speech
Don’t want people to think you’re crazy because you’re reading out loud? Try using text to speech. If you’re on a Windows computer it’s called Narrator. With Mac, it’s VoiceOver. There are also several options available that you can download.
Once you have it set up just hit a couple of keys and your computer will read the text for you. You can listen for any mistakes as you read along. And there’s something about that semi-robotic voice that makes the errors stick out like a sore thumb.
You can even use this feature on novels or short stories that you’re writing. Kindle’s text to speech option is the one I like best. You can convert your Word document to a Mobi file then upload it into the Kindle app and have your story read to you. With this option, you not only get it read to you but you get to see what your document is going to look like on the Kindle.
Try printing out a copy
Take it back old school and feel like a professional with your red ink pen. Having a paper and pen in hand could make all the difference.
Try breaking it down
Go through the document, concentrating first on spelling alone, then try checking sentence structure, next punctuation, and so on. By looking for one specific error at a time it will help you find issues you might have otherwise missed.
Know Your Writing Issues
I almost never mix up it’s and its, or there their and they’re, or whose and who’s. Do you know why? Because when I first started writing, I used to mix those up all the time in my rough drafts. After a while of fixing the same issues over and over, I began looking for them.
Even today as I’m belting out words as fast as I can, I will stop and fix those words if I mess them up because I’ve conditioned myself to watch for them. That might mess up my daily word count some, but it saves me tons of time on proofreading and editing later.
Running your work through all 7 of these steps will have you proofreading like a pro. So, now that I’ve told you how I proof my writing, how do you proof yours? Do you use a spotlight and a magnifying glass? How about a hamster personally trained to spot misspelled words? That would be so cool!
Leave a comment and tell me about your proofing routine.