Proofreading

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 15th Nov 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Writing

It does not matter how carefully we proofread what we wrote, there will always be an error in grammar, a typo, a misspelled word or some other error that we do not catch. Our proofreading will never be perfect, but there are steps that we can take to improve our proofreading abilities.

Introduction

Proofreading is not an exact science. There is no foolproof mathematical formula that we can apply. The problem is that, in far too many cases, we see what we intended to write and not what we wrote. Many people write the same way they talk, so the words “sound” right to their ear, but the sentences they appear in are grammatically incorrect. As imperfect as our proofreading our own writings may be, we can improve it considerably if we employ the following techniques.

Employ a cooling off period.

Put your completed article aside for a few hours, or a few days, if time permits, before proofreading it. Coming back to what you wrote with fresh eyes, you are more likely to see what you wrote rather than what you had intended to write. If you are writing against a deadline, as most of us do, you need to schedule a 24 hour cooling off period into your project schedule when ever possible. With online Work For Hire (WFH) sites, that is not possible because they expect the article within 24 hours after acceptance. In cases like that, set it aside while you work on another WFH article. When you finish the second article, come back to the first one and proofread it.

Does a cooling off period make you a better proofreader? Test it for yourself, write an article on a subject that you know well and then proofread it. Circle all the mistakes that you find in the article, but do not correct them at this time. Set the article aside for 24 hours, then proofread it again. After the cooling off period, you will find mistakes that you did not find during the first proofreading.

Proofread your article in stages.

Proofread every article at least four times. First, look for and correct problems with sentence structure. Second, check your word choices; As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning-bug & the lightning.” Check for and correct any errors in spelling during the third reading. During the fourth proofreading, you correct errors in punctuation.

Be your own fact checker.

Back in the day when we all wrote for the print media, publications had “Fact Checker” whose sole job was to double-check your “Facts.” Print publication still do employ fact checkers to make sure your facts are accurate, but few web sites can afford to employ them. If you write for the web, you need to double-check your facts and figures, as well as the spelling of people's names. If your facts are wrong, you can be sure that one of your readers will catch the mistake, and you will lose creditability. The site that you are writing for will lose creditability too.

Print it out.

Print out your article and review it as a hard copy. Editing while reading from a computer monitor is not easy. If you have the opportunity to review their edits, you will see that they will, in many edits, go back and put back in things that they originally cut because they misread the article. It is much easier to edit hard copy where you can see everything in context and can scribble changes in the margins or between the lines. An article always looks different on paper.

Listen to what you wrote.

Read the article out loud to yourself, or, better yet, have someone else read it out lout to you. You may be able to hear mistakes that you could not see.

Read your text backwards.

This is not an easy technique to learn but you can master it with a lot of practice. Reading the printed text backwards forces you to concentrate on individual words rather than whole sentences. This is a good way to check to make sure that you have used the word that means what you want it to mean.

Create your own proofreading check lists.

Keep a list of the common mistakes that you make repeatedly and then refer to that list as your proofread.

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Tags

Article, Article Content Quality Improvement, Article Formatting, Article Writing, Articles, Editing, Editing Grammar, Grammar, Grammar Correct, Grammar English, Grammar Proper, Grammar Tips, Grammatical Errors, Grammer, Proof Reading, Proofread, Proofreader, Proofreading, Spelling

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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Comments

author avatar Denise O
15th Nov 2010 (#)

Great info Jerry, as usual.
I have learned these mistakes the hard way and once again, I am back to changing them.
Good to read you again.
We had the flu ( again) that went through my home, that was just wicked!
My poor grandson had it worse than any of us.
The poor guy had us all scared for a few.
Him only being 6 months old.
Any ways, good to read ya.
Great article.
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Jerry Walch
16th Nov 2010 (#)

I was wondering where you were hiding. I'm glad you're feeling better.

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author avatar TheMovieScene
16th Nov 2010 (#)

As always a useful article. I follow many of these steps and I generally read through, edit and correct at least 3 times before I publish anything. But saying that it still amazes me when I revisit something I wrote a year ago and spot mistakes despite employing a proofreading regime.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
16th Nov 2010 (#)

Yeah, I know the feeling MovieScene.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
16th Nov 2010 (#)

Jerry, I work as an editor for two Florida universities, proofing for some on the most famous anthropologists in the world. Ironically, professionals/PhDs are among the worst spellers, worse abusers of grammar and formal structure, on the planet, and it's just getting worse. Incorrect spelling and misuse of grammar has become an almost accepted norm, even in professional writing. This was never the case before the Internet.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
16th Nov 2010 (#)

That's true James. I think that the chat rooms, texting and email has a lot to do with that and the nonsensical shorthand that developed from its use.

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author avatar Carol
17th Nov 2010 (#)

Thank you very much for that Jerry.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
18th Nov 2010 (#)

You're welcome Carol.

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author avatar Angelique Newman
18th Nov 2010 (#)

Another great article Jerry. I apply all these rules when writing, though I've never read a text backwards. Great tip :-)

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author avatar Paul Lines
20th Nov 2010 (#)

Some very interesting and important advice for writers Jerry and a few tips I like others have learned, thanks

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author avatar Jerry Walch
20th Nov 2010 (#)

Thank you Angelique and Paul

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
13th Jan 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Jerry. Thank you for this information. I would love to have another human check my work. We both know about online checkers and they are excellent for certain things, however, most, if not all of us are editing and proofing our own materials and that leads to the mistakes. It's hard even reading backwards to see what is there when I knew what should be there. New glasses? ~Marilyn

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author avatar Jerry Walch
13th Jan 2014 (#)

Yeah, new gasses. Well they were new 2 1/2 years ago. Time to get them changed again. The picture is about two years old.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
14th Jan 2014 (#)

Good evening, Jerry - I meant did I need new glasses to read backwards :) ~Marilyn

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author avatar Jerry Walch
14th Jan 2014 (#)

Oh! OK! Either way...I do need to get my glasses changed :-))

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