Write, proofread, repeat.
Proofreading is like an exercise for the mind: it boosts brain power, sharpens your memory, increases productivity – and just like any workout, the more you do it, the better the results.
What’s more, it’s a skill that adds credibility to your writing, refines your ideas and offers one final quality check before pressing send, print, or post.
Here is my 5-step proofreading routine:
Step 1. Read it
This may sound obvious, but it can be quite hard to move from the role of writer to reader. Most writers I know become emotionally involved in their work, so the trick here is to pretend you are reading someone else’s work for the first time.
Check names, dates, places, punctuation, hyperlinks, sources, UK/US/AUS/CAN English, hyphens, general flow, and typos that digital spell checkers can miss.
I often track the changes so that I can go back and review (go to the ‘Review’ tab in Microsoft Word and switch ‘Track Changes’ to ‘On’). This gives you the option of ‘accepting’ or ‘rejecting’ the change later in the process.
Step 2. Read.every.word
Did you read ‘the’ once or twice?
When you read something, your mind subconsciously reads the words it wants to read and automatically corrects mistakes.
Reading each individual word helps to reduce the chances of this happening, as you read what is written.
Step 3: Read all the words
Now you’ve read each individual word, you can go back to taking in the sentences and paragraphs once again, ensuring you’ve understood the meaning of the piece.
Go through the changes you tracked previously and decide which parts of the text require your suggested updates.
When you’re happy with the content, remove the track changes so you’re left with a ‘clean’ version of the text. If you can, send this version to another proofreader for an additional quality check.
Step 4: Read it aloud
Ears always catch mistakes that eyes miss, so always try to read the words aloud when you can. Yes, you look like you’re talking to yourself, but those who matter won’t mind 😉
An added benefit to reading your words aloud is that it forces your mind into a higher level of concentration than silent reading. You will naturally add in punctuation where it should be, remove unnecessary words and ‘stop’ if a sentence sounds a bit ‘clunky’.
Step 5: Read it again
Time permitting, set your work aside before reading it for the final time. 10 minutes is great; an hour or so, even better.
Although you can probably recite a lot of the content off by heart at this stage, it’s worth remembering that you can never read something too many times.
You’ll know when you’re ready to publish your words to the world.