How to Proofread
18 April, 2018 in default category name
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How to Proofread Your Own Text Effectively (Proofreading Tips)

Whether you think it is normal or not, we all make mistakes when writing or typing anything. Sometimes we forget the "the," or to put "-ed" at the end of the word, and sometimes we just type an extra letter making "to" into "too," etc. And while mistakes like these may not do any harm, there is always an example of Bank of Kazakhstan, who misspelled the word "Bank" on their new banknotes which they printed and spread. So you get the point - it is better to avoid typos in business correspondence, educational assignments, and, basically, in any writing overall.

Now, before proceeding with any advice, I'd like to clarify a few things. First of all, it's nearly impossible to write without typos. Whatever skill you have in writing or typing, our brain works much faster than fingers, so it's absolutely normal that a few wrong letters or visually similar but out of place words sneak their way into the text. Besides, with all the modern "autocorrect" features, it's rather easy to miss when some word is automatically changed to another.

Secondly, if you are not a native English speaker, you must understand that it is a lot harder to achieve error-free writing. However advanced you are in English, it is still a foreign language, which wasn't absorbed by your mind since the day of birth. Mathematically, even if a writer produces 1,000 words per day and makes one typo every week, it's still a 99.986% success rate. And if to be calculated for letters, since the majority of typos appear amongst them, that 1 mistake per week equals around 99.997% success rate. While it seems high, try to imagine the level of language control a person who makes one mistake a week has. It's nearly impossible.

While the last example may seem like a stretch, what I wanted to say is that while typos are bad and you should do everything possible to avoid them, I believe you shouldn't feel too bad about mistakes and understand that human error cannot be ruled out completely.

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What could be done about typos?

As we've determined earlier, there is almost no way to avoid some minor technical mistakes in the text when you are writing it, thus, the key to an error-free text is proofreading by someone else. When browsing the Internet, you can notice that most of the texts featured on blogs and small news agencies are usually filled with errors. That is because the majority of these web pages never got reviewed by anyone else than writer prior to being published. On the contrary, newspaper and magazine articles, besides being written by professional writers with a vast experience, go through a process of extensive review and editing. Most of the time, such companies have a number of editors, including the department editor, senior and copy editor, who are far more trained in grammar and writing than an average blogger. Even if you examine commercial websites, it would be clear that they probably have an editorial department which makes the text look good and spotless before publishing.

Being ideal for a lot of cases, proofreading by someone else isn't always an answer, mainly because often you don't have the time needed, especially when writing an e-mail or a time-sensitive project. In such case, you may be the only one who has time to check what you've just written. That's why I've made a list of proofreading tips collecting my own experience.

Proofreading tips

  • Try reading your text from bottom to top, starting at the last word and all the way in reverse order

    As I said earlier, our brain works very fast, so when you read your own text, it expects the words that just have been written and skips over errors. Reading in reverse makes you examine every word closely, thus paying more attention.

  • Reading out loud helps a lot

    Just as with the previous example, the goal is to trick your mind into reviewing every word carefully, so that no stone is left unturned, and no mistake is unnoticed. This is what I practice most often, and it seems to help a lot. However, I've noticed that using only this way leaves out errors that are not read aloud, like misplaced commas.

  • Consider printing out a hard copy of what you've written

    This comes from my own experience. I've noticed that when reading off a computer screen makes me miss more typos that when I read from a printout. I'm not sure what causes this, but my guess is that it takes more effort for our eyes and consequently our brain to absorb text from a glowing screen than a paper.

  • Do not rush proofreading

    If it's possible, try proofreading after a considerable amount of time had passed since you've completed your written work. This may seem silly, but in my opinion, it's better to clear your mind, do some other work and then examine the text for mistakes. This approach lets your brain focus on the words and typos instead of glancing over the text.

  • Focus on the small things

    As the saying goes, "the devil is in the details," so you need to pay extra attention to all the tiny things in the text. Try highlighting punctuation marks and symbols, so you can be sure they are in a correct place. Look closely for the small words (a, an, and, of, form/from, is, it, the) that can be easy missed or misused.

  • Examine pictures and tables

    If your text has some illustrations, look at them closely. Are they in the correct order? Did you attach a correct image, or filled a graph with correct data? Even if you write an impeccable report, but attach a wrong table, it wouldn't do you any good.

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That's it for now. Remember that all of these tips are derived from my own experience and may not work for everyone. If you have your own techniques for proofreading feel free to share them in the comments.

Write correctly, and when feeling like a rare misplaced comma is OK, remember a panda who "eats, shoots and leaves."

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18 April, 2018 in default category name
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