Proofreading is the act of mending the text to its best version to be ready for submission or publishing. Not to be confused with editing, in proofreading, the writer has to spot typographical errors as well as mistakes in grammar, punctuation use, spelling, and style, then correct them. Proofreading commonly occurs after editing, and it is the last stage of the writing process. Once a work is proofread, it is expected to be more polished than the draft – down to the last flaw.
Proofreading versus editing
Proofreading is different from editing. Editing is the first task writers do when they finish writing their draft. In editing, the writer checks the whole text to see if it conveys the thought they are trying to deliver. While proofreading is merely checking for errors on the surface level, editing goes deeper into the writer’s work – there is an in-depth analysis and critical thinking of the text in order to fix any incomprehensible parts of it.
There are many things to look for when you are proofreading your work. It’s easy to make mistakes in your first draft, especially if you are in the zone and a flood of words are coming through you in the speed of light. Some of the errors are easy to spot and some requires a whole lot of focus to see, so it is important to proofread your work until you are satisfied with its final outcome.
What to look for when proofreading your work
Typographical errors, or most commonly known as “typo,” are mechanical errors made in typing. Typographical errors are the easiest to spot because often times they are the most obvious mistakes the writer can make while writing their output. Furthermore, typos exclude errors of ignorance such as spelling mistakes or misusing words like “their” and “they’re” in a sentence.
Programs or tools such as Microsoft Word or Grammarly often have a built-in method to check the writer’s grammar or spelling. However, sometimes those tools are not reliable sources to check grammar. It may have lapses and may overlook some of the common mistakes the writer makes, so it is still important to proofread your own work to spot mistakes in grammar. Proofreading your grammar would entail keeping a look out for mistakes in subject-verb agreement, run-on sentences, or split infinitives.
Punctuations serve multiple purpose in a text; it is important not to misuse them as it may disrupt the thought within the work. Using punctuations helps the writer enhance their thought for a clearer delivery. Among the common mistakes in punctuation use are the unnecessary or missing commas, the use of apostrophe in “its” and “it’s,” the use of the hyphen and dash, and the Oxford comma.
It can be easy to make a misspelled word, especially if it’s a difficult word to even pronounce. While writing and proofreading, it is helpful to have a thesaurus or a dictionary nearby to easily check the correct spelling of the word you want to use.
It is important to remain consistent with the writing style and not to swerve from one format to another. In proofreading, check the citations and format, and if it is APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard, it is vital that it remains as so throughout the whole text.
Proofreading may be the most thorough stage of the writing process as it requires so much focus and attention to make the output become as seamless as possible. There is no correct method in proofreading your work, but there are some tricks that can be done to make the process of proofreading easier.
How to easily proofread your work
1. Be sure you are entirely done with the editing stage
Proofreading and editing simultaneously might confuse you, so be sure you are completely done with the editing and the thought of the text is complete before proceeding to proofreading. This way, you will be able to set your mind in spotting mistakes on the surface of the text.
2. Give time to rest your mind in between writing, editing, and proofreading
As it was stated above, proofreading and editing at the same time might be confusing, so aside from doing each stage separately, it is also helpful to have breaks in between the writing process. It can be a 15-minute break, a day, or even a week, however long it takes for you to be able to go back to your work with complete focus on proofreading. Once the mind is clear, then it would be ready to spot and check the output easily.
3. Proofread a printout of the text
Proofreading requires utmost concentration with all eyes set on each word of the text. It is advised to proofread a long text through a printout, so the eyes won’t get irritated – and often times reading from a computer screen can become overwhelming.
4. Read your work out loud.
Reading out loud helps you process the words as you hear them. When you hear the text you can easily spot run-on sentences and other complicated compositions within the text.
5. Read the text backwards to see easily spot misspelled words
When you read your work, you may look past some of the misspelled words in favour of actually reading the text. As you proofread, the mind will automatically correct those misspelled words. It may help to read the text from the last word to the first, or backwards, to easily see if some of the words are still misspelled.
6. Utilize online writing tools
It was previously mentioned tools like Grammarly have tendencies to overlook some grammar lapses. Nonetheless, writing tools can be helpful in the writing process to avoid unnecessary mistakes in the beginning. There is a variety of writing tools online that will help you focus on your work and spot some mistakes along the way. But, it should be noted not to rely on these writing tools alone as they are not effective proofreading tools. It is still important to end your work with an extensive proofreading.
7. Let a friend, colleague, or instructor proofread your work
It’s not enough to proofread your own work, so you might want to ask other people to check out your work for you as well. There might be some errors you have managed to snub that only other people can see. They can be your colleague or instructor as long as they agree to provide their services for your work, then you’re good to go. Allow them to proofread your work for some time and let them come back to you with their revisions.
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