Variations of “You simply can’t find your own writing mistakes! You need someone else to proofread your work for you!” have echoed through blog comments when I’ve addressed this apparently taboo topic.
I understand the sentiment, but I think that the benefits of working with a freelance copy editor or proofreader are obvious.
When a writer can also proofread like a professional proofreader, she is in a unique position to create a product that communicates her exact intentions.
Here are five simple ways to examine your writing when it’s time to proofread your final draft.
1. Eliminate the superficial.
When I read a client’s document for the first time, I superficially read the text without making any edits or comments. I need to get the gist of the document before I proofread it and make changes.
As the writer, you already know your message; lightly glossing over the text is a waste of time. Get right down to the business of word analysis.
2. Engrave each word.
Read slower to save time. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but typos, inconsistencies, and grammar mistakes become clear when you pay attention to each word and engrave its essence in your brain.
It’s easy to overlook word choice mistakes, such as “your” instead of “you’re,” if you don’t carefully study the text. Ultimately, you’ll need to perform many proofreading rounds if you approach your first attempt with too much speed.
3. List proper terms.
Create a separate list that you can easily look at when proofreading your main document. Whenever you read a proper name, term, or phrase that you use throughout the text, write it on your list.
For example, if “Proofread-O-Matic” is the name of your product, add the term to this document. You could have accidentally written “ProofreadOMatic” or “Proofreading-o-matic” in subsequent mentions. If you make a list for future reference as you proofread, you create a style guide to help keep your text consistent.
4. Categorize your content.
Once you know that a section of your text is flawless, stop proofreading it. Focus on weaker areas.
You can highlight different portions to signify the level of work that you need to do. Highlight the text in green if it’s completely proofread, yellow if it still needs a little work, and red if it still needs a good amount of your attention.
5. Drive cross-country.
After completing the steps above, I recommend reading the document aloud from the beginning, even if you think it’s error-free. This step is like a cross-country drive.
If your text is quite long, you still have to take breaks, but you want to be able to proofread the content for long strides without finding an error. One last read-through for cohesiveness and clarity is an often-overlooked editing solution that improves your writing.
Plan ahead to take a break after you finish your final draft (a full day, at the very least). Approach document proofreading as a fun activity that crafts your writing. Your most brilliant sentences can take shape at this stage in the writing process.
Stefanie Flaxman created Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services with your editing needs in mind. Follow @RevisionFairy and take a free copy of Your Ultimate Online Proofreading Guide for Better Writing.
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