How to Proofread Like a Pro

By April 12, 2021Best Practices
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Whether you’re proofreading your own work or doing it as a favor for a friend, it can be challenging. You need to be thorough, but you don’t want to spend an unreasonable amount of time. There is software that can perform grammar and spell checks, and most word processors have the feature built-in. However, due to the rules of natural language, these tools are not foolproof, and mistakes can still occur. But by using the following techniques you can proofread anything like a professional. 

Take your time

Once you have completed or been given a draft to proofread, you may be tempted to begin immediately. Stop and step away for a moment to reflect on the work and to clear your head. Take a breather because a pair of fresh eyes will be better at dissecting a project. Start by understanding the purpose of the written work and the goals that are trying to be achieved. Establishing the context of what you’re proofreading will make it easier for you to see potential errors.  

Read it out loud 

Reading something out loud or in your head is the single best way to proofread anything. Go slow and steady, line by line. If a sentence doesn’t sound right when spoken aloud, there is likely an error. The fact is, what was meant to be written and what ended up on the page can be two very different things. When proofreading, read the syllables, not the words, to find any misuse of homonyms or improper sentence structure. 

Ask a friend or Google

If you’re unsure about the use of a word or phrase, Google it verbatim or get help from a friend. Spelling and grammar checking programs are a good starting point to see all the obvious mistakes. However, you should verify proper grammatical use or spelling based on the context in a sentence. Pay particular attention to grammar check indications because they can show non-existent errors or false positives. You’ll start developing a systematic proofreading strategy the less you rely on spell checkers. 

Develop a system

As you read the content, concentrate on proofreading one type of error at a time. First, look at obvious spelling errors and typos, then move onto punctuation and structure, then finally get into grammar. Check the spelling of product names, people, or companies, this includes the correct use of capitalization, numbers, hyphens, and apostrophes. Stop whenever you see a period or comma and ask yourself if it makes sense to use it there. If formats like APA, MLA or Chicago are necessary, get a guide and follow it precisely. 

Be consistent

When making changes while proofreading, maintaining consistency is key. Be aware of common mistakes and writing patterns to easily identify errors. If a mistake is made once, it was likely made multiple times. Look for formatting inconsistencies like double spaces, as well as shifts in verb tense. Remove any unnecessary repetition, redundant words, or sentences that sound awkward when repeated out loud.

Avoid distractions 

For quality proofreading results, only focus on one section of text at a time. Don’t forget to proofread additional areas like footnotes, endnotes, tables, charts, and graphs when applicable. Use a writing platform that minimizes visual distractions, like WriteWay Writer. The Writer App’s clean interface allows you to concentrate on the words on the page. WriteWay uses a Card System that separates and organizes paragraphs in a more natural way, making it easier to proofread. 

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