7 Proven Strategies to Proofread Effectively
You often invest weeks, months, & at times longer than a year writing an analysis, an academic paper, a critical essay, or a novel. Once you finish the final draft, you get this incredible feeling of accomplishment. This is also the stage where your original piece of writing requires thorough proofreading before it can be submitted to the relevant person or department for a review or publication. But hardly anyone finds proofreading exciting and particularly when it comes to lengthy academic proofreading. Even the most scholarly individuals find it cumbersome & don’t end up proofreading with the same intensity & commitment that they showcased while writing.
And then there will be instances where you wouldn’t exactly know how proofreading is done? You will ask yourself – “How do I proofread my documents to make them perfect?”
You have two choices – either take professional assistance from an established organization with an excellent track record in proofreading services or follow these 7 proven strategies to ensure your writing is error-free & ready to be published for the global audience.
7 Top Tips for Proofreading to make your writing flawless
1) Take Print Outs: No matter how carefully you read on a laptop or a Smartphone, the chances of you missing out on errors are almost 100% - particularly if the document runs into several pages. Once you’ve have the printed copies, you will notice that you can catch all the misspelled words with relative ease. One of the primary reasons why it’s easier to detect errors on a paper is that a print out doesn’t strain your eyes like a backlit screen of an electronic device does.
2) Tricky Punctuation Errors: Misspelled words in your writing are surely undesirable, but punctuation errors – though may appear harmless – can also cause trouble. A misplaced comma, apostrophe, period, colon, quotation mark can change the meaning of a sentence and also make your writing look unprofessional.
3) Read Out Loud: You may remember that one classmate in middle or high school who had this annoying habit of reading aloud. Now you need to do exactly that. Why? Because reading out loud not only keeps you from drifting away in thoughts, it also keeps you a lot more engaged. This, in turn, results in you spotting words that aren’t grammatically incorrect but perhaps not the best word choices. The same holds true for strengthening sentence structures & detecting run-on sentences. All these areas get improved significantly when you read your writing out loud.
4) Take Short Breaks: Do not proofread at a marathon stretch. Take constant breaks, or you’re bound to oversee an error, which will defeat the whole purpose of proofreading. A great rule of thumb to follow is to proofread for 45 minutes & take a 10-15 minute break. Ensure that during the break, you do not use electronic devices. This break is to rest your eyes & mind. Get off your desk, stretch a little, drink some water or coffee, or take a short walk or simply lay down with your eyes shut. Taking 4 breaks over 4 hours will give you superior results than proofreading for 4 hours straight.
5) Run a Fact-check: Keep an eye out proper nouns, figures, statistics, etc. Apart from spellings & grammar, you have to fact-check to see that each piece of information is accurate & updated. Simple errors like incorrectly worded (something the spellcheck may not pick) University name, company name, or outdated statistics or nomenclature mistakes can really make your writing – research or creative – lose out on credibility.
6) Block out Distractions: In this day & age of ever-present internet & countless social media apps, TV shows, films, email notifications, online shopping sites, etc., vying for our attention 24/7, it’s paramount that once you sit down to proofread, your attention is undivided. A minor distraction can easily lead to an omission that you would have surely caught had you not been distracted by that beep of your Smartphone informing you about the latest stories on Instagram. But it’s not just the technology that works as an obstacle; there could be tons of other reasons such as an infant in the house who’s constantly crying, bratty teenagers, a pet dog or cat, noisy surroundings, etc. Whatever the elements that may interfere & cause distraction, must be eliminated.
7) Sleep on it: Unless it’s a short essay of upto 10 pages or there’s an urgent deadline you have to meet, it’s advisable to sleep on it. Always proofread everything twice – but never on the same day. Proofread your work with all the diligence possible on Day 1 [or as many days as it takes to proofread it thoroughly]. Go to bed on time & get your 8-hour sleep. The next day, proofread everything with fresh eyes.
In fact, if you’ve the time, I will advise you to sleep on even the shorter documents. For many, it may feel tiring to wait for a day & re-read everything again, but you will be surprised by the impact it will have on the quality of the proofreading.
Fun Fact: Even I followed the sleep on it technique for this article. I never finalize any writing on the first day unless it’s beyond my control.
Hire Professionals: If, after implementing all the above strategies to make your writing error-free and professional, you still do not feel 100% confident about the accuracy of your writing, take professional help. But ensure that you do thorough research on the organization you hire to proofread your work. You’re spending your well-earned money; you want to make sure you get the best services that make your writing perfect.
How are Editing, Copy Editing & Proofreading Different?