Today’s blog is about proofreading your own work.
To say it isn’t easy to properly proofread your own writing is the proverbial understatement. It’s bloody difficult!
If we skip words and miss errors in someone else’s work, this is doubly true for our own manuscripts.
With this in mind, here are a few tips which will help you stay on track.
- Don’t expect to pick everything up on the first run through – it is a good idea to read the manuscript through several times, looking for specific errors on each pass. For example, you might look at spelling and typos the first run through, consistency on the second, fact-checking on the third, etc.
- Change the font and make it larger – you could also change to double line spaced and if you can bear to waste the paper, print your manuscript out.
- If you did print your manuscript – use a blank sheet of paper to cover the line below. It keeps you focused on the line you are supposed to be reading.
- Use different colour marker pens – or highlight colour on your word processor – for each type of error, or proposed amendment. There are standardised BSI marks which professional proofreaders use. You might want to look at those to give you an idea how to remind yourself why you highlighted an error.
- Set your word processing app to the correct language – I live in the UK so, if I’m working for someone in the US, I need to change the setting from British English to American English. That way the document’s inbuilt spell-checker and grammar-checker will pick up 90% of errors for you.
- Don’t rely on the spell-checker – even though the spell-checker and grammar-checker will do a good job, they won’t be able to tell you if you have used the wrong word or word variant. For example, they won’t know you meant effect when you typed affect. You have to do the last 10% yourself.
- Read your manuscript pages from bottom to top or right to left. Reading backwards helps you to find those sneaky mis-spellings or typos. Reading backwards, you will look at individual words rather than skipping over words.
- Read it out loud – you’ll notice more errors that way.
- Get some rest – you should make sure you do your proofreading when you are well rested and at your best. My brain is definitely less foggy in the morning, so that is when I do my proofreading.
- Phone a friend – well, not really, you should email a friend. Ask them to read through your work for errors. The second pair of eyes will really help.
- Use the Grammarly App as an additional layer of checking. It doesn’t always get everything right but it does open your eyes to different errors.
- Kindle proofing – if you are one of those people who always see errors when you are reading on your Kindle, you should send your own document to your kindle and read it there.
Of course, that’s not all there is to proofreading – you need an eye for detail and a lot of patience – but I hope these tips will help!