– Proofreading is different from normal reading. To catch errors, slow down and look carefully at each individual word, space, and punctuation mark.
– If you see an obvious error, it is easy to skip ahead to it, missing the less obvious ones. Make sure you re-read the line again.
– Begin by reviewing the document to see if it “looks right,” focusing on line breaks and margins.
– Always proof from a hard copy. If you spot an error or something questionable, mark it immediately. Don’t fall into the “I saw it but forgot to mark it” trap.
– Proof heads, subheads, and other prominent text separately. Take extra care with any text in all caps. Typos and misspellings are much more difficult to see in an all-cap format.
– Place a ruler or a blank sheet of paper under each line as you read it. This will help you focus on each line as you read.
– Read backwards. It can help you focus on the words and not get distracted by meaning (But you’ll still need to read through at least once for content. Backwards can mean either reading the sentence in reverse order or the paragraphs in reverse order. If you were involved in the writing of the document, you will see what you think you wrote rather than what you actually wrote.
– Read aloud (when possible). Reading aloud encourages you to read each word.
Follow a checklist
– Make a list of the elements you wish to check (e.g., font change, spacing, grammar, links, addresses, phone numbers). Check off each element as you complete it. This ensures that no element will go unchecked.
– Know your own typical mistakes (e.g., common spelling errors, hyphenation). When you are more aware of a type of error, you are less likely to repeat it.
– If you do make an error, add it to your checklist so it won’t happen again.
Proofread for one type of error at a time
Proof first for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors by reading word-for-word. Then read through several more times, focusing on a different type of information each time.
Mark your changes clearly
Sloppy mark-ups can result in more errors. Use standard proofreader marks whenever possible to indicate your changes. If you are unsure of the proofreader mark for a particular correction, write out the change you want to make. Be clear and specific about your corrections. Do not simply circle the errors. When it comes to mark-ups, neatness counts!
Check your facts
Double-check all specific information, especially things that could embarass the company or author (e.g., telephone numbers, spelling of names).
Created by Peter Osborne (Bulldog Simplicity)