Proofreading Tips

Proofreading is like any other skill: it can be learned. The proofreading tips on this page will complement the proofreading techniques page. If you use both articles you should be able to learn to proofread, or improve the way that you already proofread.

Not all of the tips will be useful to everyone. Choose the ones that’ll benefit you and use them. If you’re not sure about one of the proofreading tips, try it and see. If it doesn’t help you don’t need to use it again.

1) Read slowly
Proofreading takes a long time, mainly because you’ve to work slowly to find all the mistakes. If you read too fast your eyes will skim over the words and not really see them. So you’ll miss the hard to see mistakes.

Read each and every word, slowly, so that you’ll see all the mistakes and be able to correct them.

2) Point at each word as you read it
This follows on from point one, to make sure that you read each word use your finger to point to each word as you read it. Move your finger slowly so that you’ll deliberately have to slow the speed that you read at.

This'll give you time to see and focus on each word.

3) Make a list of your mistakes
Write down areas that you know you’re not very good at. Use this list of common errors to guide your proofreading. Spend extra time making sure that you find all the mistakes related to these areas.

As you correct these mistakes try to learn from the process so that you make less of them in the future.

4) Double check titles and headings
Often proofreaders concentrate on the main body of the text and skim over the titles and headings. This can lead to mistakes being missed in the titles and headings. Once you’ve finished proofreading your own document go back and proofread each of the titles and headings without reading any of the text. You’ll find any mistakes left in the titles this way.

This is important, as people read the titles and then skim the text; so the titles need to be perfect as they’ll be read more than the main body of the text.

5) If it’s right, double check
Anytime you come to a section and think, ‘This part’s OK, I can skip it,’ don’t. This can be dangerous. Checking once more won’t cost so much time and it’s better than not checking again and missing a mistake.

6) Data
Double check any data that you’ve got in your document. Is it correct? Read down the columns rather than across the rows. Check for misplaced decimal points and wrong values. Your readers will focus on any tables or figures in your document as these are often easier to understand than long paragraphs of text. So spend time to make sure that they’re correct.

7) Check all maths
Any formulae or ‘maths’ in your document needs to be checked. Readers’ eyes will often be drawn to the things which are different, that's things which aren’t text. You might think that your text is the most important part and so spend most of your time correcting it, but remember your document is for your readers; focus on the parts that they’ll focus on.

8) Check figure and table numbers
Whenever you refer to a table or figure in your text go to the figure or table that’s specified and make sure it’s the correct one. The figure and table numbers on the figures and tables should match the numbers when you refer to them by in the text.

9) Write and proofread to a regular routine
If you’ve to write a lot and can follow a routine, do so. Something, such as, writing one day and then proofreading the following morning before starting to write again. Then proofreading what you wrote today, tomorrow morning and so on.

10) Clear your mind
If you’re writing a shorter document and need to do all your editing together at the end try to clear your mind between each edit of the document. Do something completely different between edits.

These are a few proofreading tips that might help you when trying to proofread your own document. I hope that they'll help you.

If you need any help or would like to ask some questions you can visit the Excellent Proofreading and Writing Facebook page where I’d be happy to help you. You can also keep up to date with all new additions to this site at my Facebook page.

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By Jolyon Dodgson, copyright © 2011-2020. - Proofreading and writing help for excellent first impressions.