Five Rules for Perfect Proofreading

Read one character at a time.

If you go too fast, you are likely to miss mistakes. Yes, you have to read slowly, even slower than one word at a time. By reading one character at a time you will find more mistakes than if you gloss over a whole word at once. You’ll see what’s really in the document rather than what your brain thinks is there. We all excel at jumping to conclusions and by drawing on our experience, we make assumptions about what word is coming next. That’s when we make mistakes. That’s why reading slowly and concentrating on each character is so important.

One tip is to read a document backwards from the last word to the first to slow down your reading.

Proofread from a hard copy.

It is much easier on your eyes to read on paper than it is to read from the screen. Plus, with a hard copy you can mark it up all you want before making changes to the computer file. Another reason this helps make proofreading perfect is because when you read something in another format, you catch more mistakes.

Read the document out loud.

This is one of my favourite rules for perfect proofreading. Nobody has to listen to you; in fact it’s better if you do it alone. It enables you to listen for mistakes, and you will often find that you stumble over incorrectly spelled words or bad punctuation while trying to read your writing aloud. This is another good opportunity for reading backwards from the last word to the first, although at first it may seem awkward to read something out loud and backwards!

A rule for experienced writers:

Once you know the types of errors you typically make, keep a list of them. Then use it when you proofread your work. You’ll catch your most common errors before you have to go searching for others. Over time, you’ll learn not to make these errors in the first place and your writing will start out cleaner with fewer mistakes.

Ask somebody else to proofread your work.

Nobody is perfect. Many of us were absent from school the days they taught grammar. Others have forgotten the rules or not kept up with changes to them. For instance, you’d be amazed at how many people still use two spaces between sentences, instead of one, as in the days before computers took over.

In any case, we’re often too close to our own work to proofread it perfectly. A fresh pair of eyes is usually the answer. If you don’t have anybody to help you, then rest between the time you write and the time you proofread—at least overnight. By doing this, you’ll gain some distance from your writing and you’ll have your own fresh pair of eyes with which to view your content.

For help with your proofreading, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216. Or watch our short video:


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