I bet you’ve heard the maxim ‘Epistola non erubescit’ by Cicero, which means ‘Paper can’t blush’. He said it 2,000 years ago.
Some writers treat their audience like paper and they don’t even try to proofread their texts, leaving this task to online spell checkers instead. That’s sad!
Writers forget they create texts for people, not robots. It’s not a machine who will read your copies but human beings, sensitive to the form and content they consume. Unlike with paper, people can blush when reading poor texts. As you know, they hate spelling and grammar mistakes.
Do you care about your audience?
I’m sure you do. So you need to master proofreading and always check your writing before publishing. In this article, I am going to give you ten ways to do it like a boss.
But first, let’s answer the question: What is proofreading?
Amanda Patterson describes it as “the final stage of the writing process.” It means that you need to proofread a text only after you’ve finished writing and editing it.
The process is simple. You read the final version of a copy, highlight errors in its format and language use, and correct them. In other words, you polish your writing.
Ready to do it like a boss?
Then do the following:
- Check your text in browsers. It can be the first step to proofreading because most browsers spot typos. You can easily activate this feature if needed.
- Read from the end. Read every sentence individually, not in context. If you do this, you are able to concentrate on its particular errors rather than a general text composition.
- Use online services. They are many, and so are their features. Some spot grammar mistakes, others find plagiarism, and still others check the readability of your writings. Try several tools to proofread different aspects of your texts.
- Consider offline tools. Download them to your computer or mobile device to check spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the style of your writing. Unlike with online services, you don’t need the Internet access for working with these instruments.
- Ask friends to read your text. We all perceive information differently, and that is why other people may notice mistakes that you’ve missed. Ask friends to read your writing and tell you what they think.
- Concentrate on particular errors. Our brain can’t solve several tasks at once. So you need to break down a proofreading process into categories: scan one type of errors first, and then continue with another.
- Read aloud. This trick helps you to notice grammar gaps and logical mistakes. When reading aloud, you add speaking and listening to the process. It forces you to feel the rhythm of your writing so you can find its weak spots.
- Reframe your text. The term “reframing” comes from NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming). When we change context, our perception changes too. This principle works for proofreading as well. Reframe your writings by changing a font size, a colour, or the background of your text – and you will see its content in a different light.
- Print it off. The research says that we don’t read but scan information online, and so we miss typos and errors while proofreading. When reading from print, we are more concentrated and careful about what we read. Use this trick: proofread on paper, and then correct mistakes in your online document.
- Take a break. I am sure you love writing. But if you do it all the time, it drains and decreases your concentration levels. In other words, you stop noticing errors in your own texts. Don’t start proofreading your text immediately after you’ve finished writing it.
If you want to proofread your writing like a boss, consider and combine different tactics. Don’t forget to take breaks! A cup of coffee, shopping, walks, or movie time can help to get back your energy.
Once reloaded, you will be able to go back to your texts and format them so your readers will say “Wow!”
by Lesley Vos
If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme.