You’ve been working on your manuscript for months, and it’s just about ready for publication. You hand it to your friend or partner to check over, and they spot several typos. How can that be possible when you’ve read it what feels like a hundred times?
At some point, we get too close to our work. Our brains gloss over errors – even those that stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a totally normal phenomenon, one that happens to even the best and brightest of writers.
Whether you’re working on your debut novel, the tenth installment in your fantasy series, a cookbook, or an annual report, errors don’t look professional. They are distracting, too, and can make reading a chore.
The solution? Meticulous proofreading. While we always recommend bringing in a fresh set of eyes, it’s worth trawling your own work for pesky mistakes first. Here are eight proofreading tips to get you started.
1. Read your work aloud
Reading your work aloud word by word is an effective way of picking up the mistakes your eyes have automatically corrected. If you can convince someone to listen, even better. This should help you read slowly, clearly, and loudly.
2. Print out a hardcopy
Even in today’s paperless world, sometimes it takes a good old-fashioned hardcopy, pencil, and caffeinated beverage to uncover grammar mistakes, typos, and misspellings. We read on screens all day long – switching to the printed page can help you approach your work with fresh eyes.
3. Pay attention to commonly mistaken words
You know the difference between there, their, and they’re. But sometimes, when you fall into the zone and words begin to flow freely onto the page, you get mixed up. Pay particular attention to commonly mistaken words when proofreading, including:
- Affect and effect
- Its and it’s
- Your and you’re
- Accept and except
- To, too, and two
4. Change the way you read
Instead of reading left to right, read right to left. By reading backwards, you can isolate each individual word. Your brain can then concentrate on spelling and grammar rather than the content and meaning.
5. Check the spelling of proper nouns
If you’re working on a corporate publication, for example, double-check that the company name is spelled correctly throughout. When we read the same word over and over again, we tend to skip over it, to fill in the blank.
6. Stick to the style guide
If you’re writing for a company, be sure to stick to their style guide (if they have one). Do they use the Oxford comma? What are the brand’s guidelines on title and subtitle capitalisation?
7. Don’t rely on grammar and spell-checking applications
Spell check and other grammar check applications can be useful, but they do tend to miss a significant portion of errors. What’s more, what happens when you’re not sure which suggestions to accept and which to reject?
8. Give yourself ample time
Often, the best way to pick up on errors is to walk away from your work for a couple of days. If you’re under time pressure, even a few hours away from the screen can work wonders.
Invest in a fresh pair of eyes
When it comes to writing, it takes a whole lot of effort to appear effortless. Error-free text is the result of meticulous editing and proofreading, often performed by a team of professionals.
If you want to be 100 per cent certain that your work is free from distracting spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and typos, learn more about our proofreading service today.