Word by Word: Proofreading Tips for Writers

Proofreading isn’t the most enjoyable part of writing an article, but the fact is it has to be done. If you approach it in a systematic, organized way, however, it makes it a little easier.

Careful proofreading shows the reader that you are proud of your work and want them to have an article that is mistake-free and high in quality content. Further, the fact that you pay attention to “little” details such as correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar tends to make the reader feel more secure that the information you are imparting is correct. This article will give some tips on the general proofing and editing of your work before submission.

1. Set aside a specific amount of time.

Don’t proofread “on the fly.” Rather, make it a part of your schedule. It is helpful to leave time between finishing your work and proofing it, so you can look at your writing with fresh eyes. Consider this when working on deadline, and account for it in your schedule.

With much longer articles, do you want to complete the article in its entirety before proofreading, or do you like to complete portions of it, proofread them, and continue with the rest of the article? Whichever way you approach it, enter your proofreading time on your calendar. When dividing it up, be sure to pay careful attention to consistency of the sections.

2. Make sure you are focused on your proofreading.

Mistakes can often be caused by distractions, and distractions can often cause you to miss mistakes when you are proofreading. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are completely focused on your proofreading before you even read the first word.

3. Remember the 5 “Cs” of copy editing.

The 5 “Cs” are clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. Taken separately as well as all together, they ensure that the quality content of your article is the best it can be. Give your work a read-through first to determine that it has these five qualities. For some, it helps to read the work aloud. When changes have been made, read through it again.

4. Get down to the nitty gritty.

Go word for word, line by line to check for typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors. Even the slightest mistake can reflect on the overall professional quality of your work. When you get down to this stage, sometimes it helps to read the text backward, looking at each word, because it doesn’t allow your brain to skip over mistakes while fluidly reading.

There are loads of books and websites showing commonly used words and other proofreading tips, but this will get you started overall. As you become more experienced, proofreading will become easier. You know your own writing and the types of errors you tend to introduce. Like anything else, it just takes practice.

Jessica M. is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments. WriterAccess is powered by ideaLaunch.


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