There is more to good proofreading than just checking the spelling and grammar of a piece of work, you also need to look at the overall piece of work, the type of writing it is, the tone of voice, the tenses used, and all of this in the context of the piece.
Of course, how much of this your proofreading assignment requires will vary by employer, but that’s not the point here. Here are seven tips to help you brush up on your proofreading skills.
Look at the Whole Piece
Depending on the type of writing you want to look at the overall structure of the piece you are proofreading to ensure the piece is structurally sound – check for a beginning or introduction, a middle or body, an end or conclusion.
Our minds have the tendency to ‘skim’, even when we are reading something for the first time, we see whole words, not individual letters; we see phrases instead of the component words. Slow your reading down and take time to look at each word.
Read Out Loud
Use two senses instead of one, read the writing out loud. Hearing the words helps you to identify words used out of place, run on sentences, incorrect use of contractions, and sometimes even simple spelling mistakes.
If you are doing proofreading on the computer, pretty much every application, and all current web browsers, you use will have a zoom feature to make the text on the screen larger. Even if they don’t zoom, you can always reduce the resolution of your computer monitor while you work.
Don’t always rely on your spell checker
Spell-checkers are great for identifying words that aren’t spelled correctly, most even check basic grammar rules too. English is a funny language, however, and it’s possible to have the wrong word in a sentence and for the checker not to see it. Use them, but don’t rely on your spell checker.
Read, Read, Read
The more you read the more familiar you will become with words and grammar. If you find yourself proofreading the same kind of material every time – scientific journals, fictional writing, technical specifications – you should try reading more of the same – become very familiar with your subject matter.
Write, Write, Write
Writing a lot is another awesome way to learn how to proofread – might sound back-to-front to some, but the more you write the more you think about the words you are using, the sentence structure, tone of voice and tenses.
Read more, write more, take your time, sound it out, and learn to proofread better. Nice and simple.