It seems like we, here at EF, are always harping on the importance of proof reading but there really isn't a good reference for how to go about doing this. So here it is- all about proofreading!
First of all you should understand that proofreading is a skill not an innate ability. It takes practice and just a few pointers. This site offers a spell check feature that is more or less helpful but it cannot interpret your meaning or tell the difference between similar spellings. This is where practice comes in.
You might ask yourself why proofreading is so important. Our reviews and writing is all about the content and what we think about products, right? The thing is written communication is a two way street. If your thoughts are not easily understood then you haven’t gotten your point across and it reflects in how people judge your work. Proofreading is the last step before you hit enter!
Something to remember before you begin your proofreading is how the brain works. After you have written anything your brain is still involved in the creative process. You will, more than likely, miss any spelling errors or syntax errors if you attempt to proofread just after writing. So put it away, save your work, and come back later.
In this lesson I will give a few pointers but in following lessons I will expand on this information and offer some quick and easy common mistakes. Be sure to read the entire series if you want to improve your proofreading skills. It will pay off in terms of rank and in terms of how easy writing will become for you!
Ok, so here are a few things NOT to do when writing. Don’t rely entirely on spell check programs as they are far from fool proof. There is the problem of limited dictionary and spell checkers are there only to catch words that are actually misspelled. If there is an alternate spelling the program isn’t intuitive enough to catch the mistake.
Don’t rely completely on grammar checkers either! These programs cause more problems than they solve since they are only intuitive enough to catch glaring errors. They have a limited ability to actually parse a sentence and look for proper structure. They explanations they give can confuse rather than enlighten. They are good for potential run-on sentences or the too frequent use of the passive voice. They can correct incorrect forms of verbs but you need to know WHY the word needs to be changed.
Don’t try to proofread for more than one kind of error at a time. If you don’t have a focus for your efforts you risk missing a glaring error. Stick to checking spelling one run through and then check punctuation the next.
Don’t speed through the reading process. Read each word…maybe even read it out loud. This will stop you fem unconsciously adding words that should be there or skipping over extra words. One way to slow yourself down is to read each and every sentence by hitting the enter key at every ending mark. This will force you to read the work in an unfamiliar and jarring form. This can help when you are looking for grammatical errors, punctuation, or spelling errors.
Don’t think that you always have to start at the top of the paper, review or story. Try reading it backwards! Start with the last sentence and work your way up to the first. This will also take content out of the picture and your mind will be primed to catch any grammatical errors as well as spelling errors.
Don’t get angry with yourself if you miss mistakes even after all your work. Proofreading is a skill and it takes practice. You are learning to really SEE what you are reading! You will also become very familiar with your “voice” and learn to recognize errors you make often.
Don’t knock the importance of a good dictionary, thesaurus, and/or a grammar handbook! If you are serious about writing these are invaluable and worth their weight in gold.
Don’t second guess your first instinct. If you feel that there is a problem with a sentence but you are unsure of the rule, then it’s time for revision of the sentence. You want your work to read easily and be understood easily. If the price of this is to revise a questionable sentence then what the heck, right?
Now if your question comes about a grammar rule or proper spelling of a word- such as where and when to use a comma or what form of a word to use; look it up. The more you do this the better your initial writing will become and the faster you will pick up on mistakes while you are writing.
Do remember that it is often easier to proofread for someone else than it is to proofread your own work. In the following lessons on proofreading I will get into more detail about common mistakes and how to quickly scan a paper, review, or story for these errors.