Five Tips for Improving Your Proofreading Skills

Proofreading is proof you love your words

Proofreading is proof you love your words

Proofreading—the final review step before dropping “your baby” into the social-aware world of publishing.

Don’t let the first sentence of this post bring shivers of fear into your reality, but what I just said might be more real than you might expect. Proofreading your document or manuscript is the final phase before your words go from being confined within your private world into the public and visible world of readers.

Hopefully, you hired a seasoned and professional proofreader to go over every word in your manuscript, but ultimately, the last person to review your work before it goes public, is you!

Here, then, are the five tips I’d like to share with you about improving your proofreading skills. Leave me a comment at the end of this post if these suggestions were helpful to you. Thanks!

Tip #1

If your document is short (less than 5,000 words), proofread the document electronically, with marked changes turned on so you can see what you’ve changed before saving your document. If your document is longer than 5,000 words, print it out (use both sides of the paper if you want), and then make changes onto the paper version, which you will later insert into your digital document.

Tip #2

Fold a sheet of 8-1/2” x 11” copy paper in half, on the short side. This becomes your proofreading marker, as I prefer to call it. Place the folded edge of the paper underneath the first line of text of the paper version of your manuscript. Read the sentence slowly. Look for errors. When you’ve finished reading the first line, move the folded edge of your marker to the next line and repeat. What this tip does is it makes you read only the words on that one line. As you read slowly, the words that don’t fit will become apparent and you can correct words as you go along.

Tip #3

Read the words out loud and pay attention to how the sentence sounds. Does it make sense? Read the exact words that are typed on the page. Don’t let your creative brain insert words that aren’t there. For example, writers often type you instead of your. Look for that. Then correct the errors.

Tip #4

Start at the last sentence and read each word from right to left. Yes, right to left, not like a normal sentence would be read. You should be looking at words, not feelings, sentences, concepts, or ideas. Look at each word. Is it spelled correctly? Then look at the next word, then the next, until you reach the beginning of the line. It might seem long and laborious, but it works when you want to find errors in your document.

Tip #5

You can perform this tip first or last, but make sure you do it. Do a spell check, and then with separate passes in your Find-and-Replace box, search for and correct the following most typical proofreading errors:

  • Search for two spaces; replace with one space
  • Search for a period and two spaces; replace with a period and one space
  • Search for “. and replace with .” (Punctuation goes inside quotation marks, not outside.)
  • Search for you¸ read the sentence. Change to your if necessary.

WORD OF CAUTION: Never, ever use a ‘search and replace-all’ function unless you absolutely know what you are about to change. It could take you weeks to un-do or re-do what just happened in a couple of keystrokes.

There you have it. Five simple tips to help you improve your proofreading skills, yet even employing one of these tips might just save you from social embarrassment. Make it happen. Do it now.