Proofreading Tips


This picture doesn’t have anything to do with proofreading. But it’s of a small “detail” lots of people wouldn’t notice. Plus I’m missing Yellowstone, and that’s where we found this pretty bird.

Because I finished a big proofreading project over the weekend, I thought I’d offer a few proofreading tips for this month’s Writing Tip Wednesday.

  1. Don’t put all your trust in the spell check. There are too many words that have multiple spellings. And sometimes autocorrect will insert the wrong word unnoticed.
  2. Don’t put any trust in the grammar check. It’s almost never right. If you get that squiggly green line, check out the suggestion for sure, but do your research before you accept it.
  3. Don’t just look for misspelled words and missing or misplaced punctuation. Pay attention to formatting, too—font, page numbers, orphans and widows . . . And if the document includes dates, times, names, or titles, double-check the spelling.
  4. Create a style sheet. Don’t know what that is? It’s a document that keeps track of the rules you’re using—word spellings, serial comma, how to format numbered lists, etc. In some cases, you’ll want to have a style sheet for every document. In other cases—like a business setting—you’ll want to create a style sheet to use for everything you print. It’ll keep everyone who does any writing or editing of your documents on the same page (no pun intended!). You certainly don’t want the editor taking out all the serial commas only to have the author put them all back in.
  5. Back up every time you find an error. This suggestion comes from The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. Apparently studies have shown that most missed errors are near other errors that were caught. CWMS recommends backing up a few lines whenever you find an error.
  6. If you’re editing your own copy, don’t edit right after you wrote it. Take some time away from your work and do something else. The more time you can let it sit, the better, I think. Then when you come back, you’re seeing it with fresh eyes. You’re more likely to catch things.
  7. If it’s your own copy, have someone else look at it, too. When you’re close to a project, it’s hard to catch things. I can prove that—at work, I send out a weekly newsletter, and two weeks in a row I was under a time crunch and edited my own copy without having someone else look at it. Guess what happened? Two glaring mistakes two weeks in a row. Oops.
  8. If you’re able, read through the document more than once. Bonus points if you look at it once, walk away for awhile, and then look at it again. When I can, I scan for formatting, do a thorough proofread, and then do another quick proofread.

If you have tips of your own, feel free to leave them in a comment.

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