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Proofreading tips

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Question: I am a fast reader, which is an advantage in many areas, but proofreading is not one of them! I have no problem with grammar and punctuation rules, but I seem to miss at least one typo in every document! Thanks for any tips anyone can share.  -- Marilyn, St. Louis


Try reading your documents backwards. It forces you to slow down and look at each word individually.

Read the document out loud. Folks going by in the hallway may think you're nuts, but it really helps to spot errors.

Have you ever tried reading the documents backwards? It helps force you to look at each word, which will help. You will still need to read through forwards for the grammar and punctuation.

Good Luck!

I recommend reading it both backwards, and out loud. Both make you stop and really read the document. Should help to reduce errors.

Proofreading is radically different from reading. When proofreading, you are not concerned with the content of the text. To proofread, stop and study each word, word by word!! It takes much more time than reading, but nothing else works!

A classic way to proofread is to read the document backwards. This forces you to focus on each word. Give extra attention to dates - check each one against a calendar. Also recheck headings and title pages, as a typo there can be really glaring. And if possible, offer to swap documents with someone else in your office. It's much easier to proofread someone else's work.

I have the same problem that you have from time to time. I have found it very effective to do some of the following when I proof read. (1) Print the document out and have a hard copy to proof. It is always easier to proof a hard copy than on your computer screen. (2) Read the document backwards. This way your brain doesn't automatically skim through the words, 'assuming' that it is correct. Reading backwards makes you more aware of the word or sentence you are proofing. (3) You can always give it to another employee to proof after you have finished. That way it has gone through at least 2 people. They may catch something that you missed, and vis a versa.

Hope this helps!!

Find yourself an office buddy, one whose work you know is thorough and accurate, and "cross-proof" each other's work. Often you can't see your own mistakes when someone else can. If you both approach this with an open mind, there is a lot to be learned from each other. You may want to decide on a "final authority," such as the Gregg Reference Manual, if you can't agree on a particular issue.

I play a mind game with myself. I approach each sentence as though I'm positive there's an error, and I'm going to find it! It's my mission to hunt down that error and destroy it! I choose something huge I'd like to have, like a million dollars or a trip to Paris and I tell myself if I find the next error (which I'm SURE is there!) then I'll get the prize. It's a silly game, but it works for me. (Reading backwards doesn't make sense to me, because you miss punctuation errors and usage errors like their and there.)

As Vanessa mentioned in her response -- find an office buddy. I have the same issue, I read am a fast reader but not as proficient a proofreader as I would like to be. One of my co workers is not a proficient Excel user but an excellent proofreader. We share our areas of proficiency-- I help her with her Excel problems, she helps me by proofreading and providing critque of documents I am producing. My proofreading skills have improved from having someone to work with on them and her Excel work has improved for the same reason -- a win-win for both of us.

All these suggestions are very good. I agree that it is easier to proofread a hard copy than an electronic copy. When I proofread, I use a ruler to go through the document, line by line, and I write in corrections and comments in red ink as I go along. When I'm finished, I edit the electronic copy using the marked-up original document, then check the new document against the previous one again. Since a substantial amount of my work is related to contracts, it's very important that they are accurate in all respects. I also have a checklist that I go over before I send the documents to be sure no critical information has been overlooked. This method works very well for me.

I suggest taking a proofing and grammer seminar. I have already taken one for business writing & grammar and will be taking a proofing/grammar seminar in a few months. You will learn about all these tips and more. These are usually 1 day seminars and are worth the time.

I have the same problem. You haven't talked about the word processor you are using. I use MS Word. Try making a macro to spell check the document before you print it. While this won't catch words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly, it may help.

Along with using a ruler as mentioned above, I find that taking some time away from the document (time permitting) is also helpful. When you read and re-read something 5 times in one day, your mind tricks your eyes and typos and errors are more easily overlooked. Give your mind a 24 hour (or better yet, a weekend) break from the document and then do your proofreading with "fresh eyes."

I'm a good proofreader. But I do find that sometimes it helps if I do something else for a few minutes then go back to the document again as Joey suggested above. I only need about 10 minutes or so though, not 24 hours as Joey suggested.

Also, all the suggestions about asking someone else to proofread who hasn't been working on the document is also a big help sometimes.

I decided to read all the comments before responding so I do not repeat all the great responses. One other thing I do to find those typos: read each word separately and aloud even if in your mind out loud. Does that make sense? Proofreading should be done at a slower pace than "reading" a document. Good question.
Denise, Wyoming

Thanks, everyone, for some great suggestions. I will be sure to try them.
St. Louis

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