Posted by: wordsmithsuk | April 12, 2010

How to proofread

Proofreading is the process of checking emails, letters, books, brochures, magazines, journals or any other printed materials for errors before they are released. The time spent in detailed, rigorous proofreading pays huge dividends. If you have an effective way to catch errors when you have almost finished your document, you need to worry less about editing your own copy while you are producing a first draft. This makes the entire writing process more efficient.

In theory, you can check for errors by reviewing electronic copy on a computer. However, in practice, most proofreaders find that it’s much harder to spot errors on screen.

First, print a proofreading draft with extra space in margins and between sentences. Then find a quiet place to work where you can concentrate and avoid distractions. You’ll need to take regular breaks so that your concentration doesn’t flag, so plan for these – perhaps with ready access to a kettle and tea or coffee. Finally, to avoid getting too interested in the content while you are proofreading, skim through the text.

You are now ready to start reading for errors.

Many experienced proofreaders check the document in several passes. For example:

  • Once for grammar and inconsistencies
  • Then for spelling, facts, figures, and proper names
  • Final check for punctuation.

Other recommended techniques include:

  • Reading out loud – hearing how the words sound together is a powerful way to spot errors
  • Pointing at the words as you read them (silently or aloud)
  • Pointing at and naming punctuation as you read
  • Getting someone else to read the words and the punctuation aloud while you follow the text
  • Using a sheet of card to cover up everything except the line you’re reading
  • Checking grammar by reading backwards, sentence by sentence
  • Identifying spelling errors by reading backwards, word by word.

The techniques you choose to use will depend on your preferences, the time you have available and the size and complexity of the publication.

Our audio book ‘Effective Business Writing for Success’ has helped many people to develop their skills in both proofreading and writing.

It is fun, easy to use and not at all expensive! Look at our website for more information.

Want to learn more about proofreading and effective business writing? Have a look at our in-house and public courses.

Or contact Nick at Word Smiths for more information


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