Apr 05 2019
Getting the best from Proofreading

“Proofreading is so boring…

“After about an hour, I just lose concentration.”

“I find it much easier to proofread other people’s writing than my own.”

“I go over and over my documents, and still don’t see the mistakes. I’m simply not good at paying attention to detail.”

“I don’t actually know what to look for when I’m proofreading.”

Does any of that sound familiar?If so, read on.

"Proofreading is so boring"

It doesn’t have to be—not if you think of it as sleuthing. You’re searching for clues hidden in plain view— anything from a missing comma, as in, “Let’s eat Grandma” (which should read “Let’s eat, Grandma”) to an inverted spelling, like one that appeared on the front cover—the front cover —of an academic hardback: ‘Edtied by John Brown’. Call me a nerd, but I get a kick of tracking down errors like these and fixing them.

“After about an hour, I just lose concentration.”

Well, so does everyone else. Proofreading demands enormous concentration and attention to detail, so it’s not sensible to do it for longer than an hour at a time.Take frequent breaks—leave your work station, stretch your legs, do something else for ten minutes, and then return to the task. Also: aim to proofread at the time of day when you’re at your best, and, most important, hang a DO NOT DISTURB notice above your desk.

“I find it much easier to proofread other people’s writing than my own.”

Of course you do. It’s very hard to stand back from your own writing, because you know exactly what you meant to say. This makes visual closure—the brain’s ability to grasp the intended whole from a fragment, even an incorrect one—much more likely. So why not team up with a colleague and proofread each other’s documents? A fresh pair of eyes will always spot mistakes you missed.

“I don’t actually know what to look for when I’m proofreading.”

Proofreading is the last line of defence for documents, so at this stage you should only be looking for typos, grammatical mistakes, repetitions, missing or misused punctuation, and misspellings. But it’s quite common for other, bigger problems to have been overlooked at the revision stage. A passage may still not read clearly; a paragraph may not follow a logical order; a long sentence may need to be broken down.So always ask yourself:Does this make sense? Have I had to re-read something, and if so, why? Is it consistent?And even, are the paragraph breaks in the right place?

“I go over and over my documents and still don’t see my mistakes. I’m not good at paying attention to detail.”

The strategies above for concentration will help. And here’s another one: if you’re proofreading a hard copy (some people say that’s the only way to do it), slowly take one line at a time, and cover up the rest of the page with a ruler or blank sheet of paper. This will avoid the visual closure trap (see above). For the same reason, professional proof-readers may read backwards or cover up half the page vertically. If you have to proofread on your computer screen (it may be heresy, but I often do), double-space the text, increase the font size to 16 or over, track your changes and save them, and then proofread the result.

“What if my grasp of grammar and punctuation is a bit shaky?”

Then our proofreading course will set you on the right track. It will identify the most common grammar mistakes (and a few myths) and show you how to fix them; and it will demystify colons, semi-colons, apostrophes and other punctuation pitfalls. And who knows? It might bring out the nerdy sleuth in you too.

Our London based Proofreading course will give you lots of tips and leave you with a clear understanding of how to proofread, with proofreading skills you can put into practice straight away.

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