We’ve all been there before. You write an email for something important—say, for a job application—and you read it over and over, to make sure it’s perfect. You send it off, happy with your work. And then suddenly, in the middle of the night, you wake up in a cold sweat.
You realize that the important email you sent has a glaring typo. Somehow, even though you looked at it again and again, you made a big mistake in your email.
This is why proofreading is so important. When it comes to writing something that matters, whether it’s an email, blog post, or important document, you need to proofread your work.
However, you might not be sure where to start. That’s why we’ve put together these top pro tips for proofreading your work. In this article, you’ll learn the best ways to proofread.
Finally, all the content you write will be high-quality and free of mistakes. Read on to learn more.
1. Read Your Work Out Loud
When it comes to how to proofread your work, one of the best things you can do is read your work out loud. You’ll be able to both see and hear errors as you do this. This is because you’re forcing yourself to read each and every single word you’ve written.
Additionally, even if you don’t catch errors with your eyes, you’ll hear them as you read.
In addition to catching errors using this method, you’ll also catch any areas where your text is too wordy or doesn’t flow well.
Overall, you’ll be fixing your punctuation, spelling, and grammar, you’ll also be able to improve your word choice and style.
2. Do Your Proofreading the Next Day
Another tip for how to proofread is to do your proofreading the next day. This will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes. If your deadline isn’t very time-sensitive, sleep on it and return the next day. However, if it is time-sensitive, give yourself a break of a couple of hours.
The reason this is such an effective strategy is that it makes it easier for you to be objective when proofreading.
If you proofread right after you’ve written something, you’re likely to miss errors. But if you place some time between when you write and review the work, they’ll suddenly jump out the second you read them.
3. Use the Right Style Guide
Depending on what you’re writing, you might be expected to follow a style guide. While writing, have some of the style guide’s most important features next to you, such as rules about punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and formatting.
Then, when you’re reviewing your work, check through each of these while reviewing your work. That way, you’ll be sure to follow the rules laid out by the style guide.
4. Be Aware of Your Usual Grammar Errors
When people write, there tend to be mistakes that they usually make. By being aware of what your most usual grammar errors are, you can look out for these while proofreading. These might include issues with commas or the difference between “it’s” and “its.”
Whatever your most usual grammar errors, make a list of what they are. (The more you write and proofread, the more accurate this list will be.)
Then, whenever you’re proofreading, have this list next to you. Check through each item to make sure you aren’t making the same mistakes.
One of the best benefits of using this strategy is that you’ll start to recognize these errors while you’re writing, becoming a better writer and having an easier time proofreading in the future.
5. Change Your Formatting
Sometimes, it helps to proofread if your piece of writing doesn’t look familiar. This way, it looks like something someone else wrote. If you’ve ever noticed a typo in a book or magazine but never seem to in your own work, this explains why: the distance.
To try to make this happen with your own writing, you can change your formatting. Some options include:
- Increasing the font size
- Making the page larger or smaller
- Changing the layout size
- Changing the spacing between lines
- Using a different font
By making these changes, you won’t recognize your writing as your own. Suddenly, you’ll see errors you didn’t see, such as spelling, spacing, and punctuation errors. Then, you can fix these issues and have a strong final draft.
6. Print It Out
If the document you’re proofreading isn’t too long, it can help to print it out. Having a paper copy makes it far easier to catch errors than if you were proofreading on your computer screen. When you’re reading through, use a red pen.
Then, mark any grammatical errors, typos, or thoughts about wordiness on the text itself.
When you’ve finished, you can easily go through these changes with the printed-out draft next to you and put them into your digital version.
7. Avoid Distractions When Editing
It’s also smart to avoid distractions when editing. If you have music playing, co-workers chatting around you, or a kid you’re taking care of while working, these distractions will add up and make it impossible for you to concentrate when editing.
If possible, go to a quiet room where you won’t have access to email or your phone. Don’t come out until you’ve finished editing.
8. Ask Someone for Help
When you’re proofreading, a second pair of eyes can be incredibly helpful. This is because when you’re reading your own work, it’s difficult to be objective. A friend with good spelling and grammar skills can be both objective and good at catching errors.
They might also be able to help you with word choice and polishing up the piece so that it’s ready.
9. Use a Great Spellchecker
Even though proofreading is incredibly powerful and shouldn’t be skipped, using a great spellchecker can help you catch smaller errors. These might include spacing (including extra spaces), punctuation, and grammatical errors.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use a spellchecker that automatically changes your mistakes. Even spellcheckers can make mistakes. If yours has this future, turn it off so you can review each suggested edit before putting it in.
10. Look for Mistakes You’ve Already Found
While proofreading your work, did you come across a run-on sentence you had to break into two? Did you find a word that was incorrectly spelled? Did you make the mistake of putting in double spaces instead of single spaces?
Whatever these issues are, if they’re mistakes you made, chances are you’ve made them again.
For this reason, you should look for mistakes you’ve already found throughout your text. Depending on the mistake, you can use the search feature to find exactly where else it appears.
11. Be Aware of Homonym Mistakes
Homonyms are words that have the same sound but that have different meanings and spellings. Even the best writers make mistakes with homonyms. The problem with this type of spelling mistake is that it’s not likely to be picked up by a spellchecker.
To make sure you don’t make this type of mistake, keep a list of the homonyms you usually mix up. For example, if you’re always accidentally using “witch” when you mean “which,” then you need to be careful with these.
A good tip is to use the search feature to look for the words you tend to mix up. This way, you can quickly find in the document any areas where you’re using them incorrectly.
Another element of proofreading is fact-checking. Here, you aren’t looking for grammatical errors, which can sometimes be easier to catch. Instead, you’ll be looking for any areas that require research that needs to be checked.
For example, if you’re writing about a product you’re selling, you want to make sure you get all that information correct. Any mistakes could bring around problems later if a customer is unhappy with the product they bought.
You should also make sure that the words you write all make sense when they’re together.
13. Use a Thesaurus
While you proofread, you might notice that you repeat words often. While this isn’t technically a grammatical error, it doesn’t read well and can have a negative impact on your writing style. If you start noticing that words repeat, pull up a thesaurus website to search for synonyms.
14. Cut Excess Words
Another problem with a lot of writing is that it’s full of “fluff.” If you have many long sentences or sentences that repeat ideas you’ve already explored earlier in your text, cut these excess words. Your writing needs to be succinct so readers don’t get bored by repeated ideas.
15. Make Sure You Aren’t Using Adverbs Excessively
Another thing you need to watch for is excessive adverb use. While they can add a bit of description to a piece, using them too much actually makes your writing weak. The sentences you write should be able to work without the help of an adverb.
Use the search feature to find the letters “ly” to identify where the adverbs appear in your writing. Then, ask yourself whether they’re necessary or whether you can cut them out.
16. Make Your Sentences Shorter
Even if wordiness isn’t a common problem for you, you might need to shorten your sentences. Generally speaking, sentences should be a maximum of 15 words. Keep in mind, however, that this can vary depending on what type of writing you’re completing.
At first, it will take you a while to count the words in each sentence. However, as you get used to it, you’ll be able to tell how many lines longer sentences tend to take up.
Cut down the sentences you identify as too long by taking out extraneous words and splitting them up.
17. Use the Right Proofreading Tools
In addition to the spellchecker that comes with your writing software, you should take advantage of proofreading tools available online. In addition to picking up grammatical errors, they can find issues with wordiness and your text’s structure.
There’s no need to buy many of these products. Often, you can get a free trial or find a freemium version.
However, if you write for a living, it might be worth investing in the premium versions of these proofreading tools.
18. Take a Proofreading Course
Another option, if you write for a living or have to create a large amount of content for your company, is to take a proofreading course. In these proofreading courses, you’ll learn about more than just catching grammatical errors and extra spaces.
You’ll learn about every single proofreading step, starting with larger issues such as style, voice, and structure.
Then, you’ll move on to paragraph editing, where you work with the logical structure of these smaller sections in your writing.
Finally, you’ll learn about how to get down into the nitty-gritty elements of writing.
Once you’ve taken proofreading courses, you won’t only be a better editor. You’ll also be a better writer, which means you won’t have to spend as much time proofreading anymore.
Need More Information?
Now that you’ve learned about the top pro tips for proofreading your work, you might need more information. Maybe you want to learn more about specific editings strategies for the type of writing that you work on at your current job.
Or maybe you want to learn how to optimize content for digital marketing, which requires additional writing and editing strategies.
Whatever information you need, you can find it on our blog. Simply go to the Business Products & Services section of our website, where you can learn more about making your writing the best it can be.