While I’ve always been a good writer, one of my weaknesses has been proofreading. My mind usually goes a million miles a minute, and finding the discipline to sit and go through a communication with a fine-tooth comb is difficult for me. Some people have the natural patience for it, and I envy them.
But I have learned some tricks to help me improve my proofreading sessions. So if you’re like me and find it hard to focus and pay attention to the little minute details, hopefully these tips will help you, as well!
Create a Personal Checklist
Even if we consider ourselves good proofreaders, we all have those details that we overlook: date and/or name verification, spelling of certain words, use of certain phrases, etc. So instead of being slaves to our habits and faults, it’s better to keep them in check with a list of things for which to look out when reading material. It’s hard to admit we’re not perfect, but it’s a fact. So make sure you avoid those regular pitfalls as much as possible with a healthy list of grammatical, spelling, or style reminders.
Schedule It When You Know You Have Time
The worst time to proofread is when you don’t have time. So make sure you carve out a part of your day when you can sit down and really focus on reviewing the material. Sometimes the circumstances are such that you have to proofread in a hurry, but if time is on your side, make sure you are able set aside time and give the appropriate attention to the task at hand.
Give Yourself A Buffer
Don’t proof anything immediately after you write it. You’re too close to it. You know what it should say and what you meant to say. So get out of that mindset. Take at least 15 minutes, get your mind on something else, then come back to your piece and review it with fresh eyes.
Print, Baby. PRINT!
I know I listed this as the fourth tip, but this is actually my number one guideline. The reason I listed it fourth is that some people are fine with proofreading via the computer screen. I’m not one of those people. There’s something about the light emanating from the screen that makes me miss important details. When I print something, I catch a lot more mistakes and recognize better ways to write something a lot more often. You might be one of those lucky ones who can absorb anything through the computer monitor, but I would recommend not taking any chances and print a hard copy.
As you write, you know what you want to say. You know it so well, you might not recognize when you’ve stated something incorrectly – even when re-reading it. That’s why it always helps to repeat what you’ve written out loud. If any part of what you’ve written doesn’t make sense or is grammatically incorrect, you’ll know when you hear it.
Use the Spell/Grammar Check Tool
Microsoft put the Spelling/Grammar Check tool in their Word software for a reason. So use it. It doesn’t always catch everything, but it’s one more step that can help you catch a mistake. And in the end, what have you lost but a few minutes of your time?
Check for Multi-Applicable Changes
We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve written something that specifies a date and/or place, then that information changes. You might correct the first time the information appears, but forget about the other locations in the communication. This can be part of your checklist, but it deserves to be stressed by itself – make sure you’ve changed the dates, locations, etc. in all the places that information is listed.
We all have our little tricks that help us accomplish the task at hand. So what are some of your proofreading tips? There are many others besides the ones I’ve listed. Which ones have you found to be most valuable? Let us know in the Comment section below.
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