10 Best Proofreading Tips
As writers, we all know the importance of proofreading. Without it, a manuscript looks sloppy and unfinished and can even be so difficult or frustrating to read that it leads the reader to simply put down the book altogether. However, how to best go about this challenging yet vital step in the writing process? There’s no foolproof formula and mistakes are bound to come up, but I’ve tried to make it easier for you and compiled the following list with the best proofreading tips to at least simplify the process!
- Use a spellchecker. A spellchecker can help you find repeated words or typos, so preventing a dull or error-ridden manuscript. However, remember that it is not always 100% reliable… yeah, you don’t want to make the mistake of writing ‘martial’ where you meant ‘marital’ or, worse, ‘orgasmic’ instead of ‘organic’… now that would be awkward!
- Look for one type of problem at a time. Read through the full manuscript several times, but don’t tackle everything at once. Read first for plot (are there any errors in character names, facts, discontinuity, etc.), then for sentence structures and syntax, then for word choice, spelling and then punctuation. This way you are much more likely to find the mistakes and thence fix them!
- Unsure of how you can best find spelling errors? Read your text backwards and hence single out each word!
- Unsure of the correct spelling of a word? Check the dictionary (or a thesaurus)!
- Are there any mistakes that you made that were recurring? Keep a list of such words and make sure to do an extra check of your manuscript for these specific errors with the find function.
- Read your manuscript out loud (or let a friend or relative read it out loud for you) so that you are able to hear certain problems you might not have been able to see on the computer screen or printed paper. You can also record yourself and then listen to the recording. You are much more likely to find a missing word – or a repeated one – when reading it out loud, and you might hear it more easily if a sentence does not flow well or a wrong word has been used.
- Read your manuscript in print. Review it line by line and mark mistakes with a red pen. The different format might help you catch things you would not have otherwise seen. If you usually use this method, consider printing in a different font or with different margins to, once again, see your work in a new way.
- Give your manuscript a rest. Set your work aside for a few hours, days, weeks, or even months and then look back at the work with new eyes. This way you are more likely to see what you’ve actually written rather than what you want to see or how you originally pictured it to be.
- Have other people read your work. A fresh pair of eyes will provide new insights. However, make sure the person is open to being critical (you don’t want the same unhelpful “that’s great, don’t change anything”) and make sure that you yourself are open to the criticism (no use having anyone else review your manuscript if you yourself are so stubborn as to not make any corrections based on the suggestions).
- Be open to make changes. Don’t think your first draft will be your last, because it will not. Even if it takes extra time and energy, make sure you make the required changes to bring your story to its full potential.