The following is a guest post from Maria Ranier.
For many writers, proofreading someone else’s work is much easier than proofreading their own. As nearly any college student writing a last-minute literature paper can attest, your mind tends to skip over mistakes and miss minor details. For this reason, most writers prefer to have an editor or other unbiased third party read over rough drafts before final corrections are made.
Here are four ways to improve your proofreading technique:
1. Walk away.
If you’ve been working on the piece for the past three hours, chances are you won’t be on the top of your proofreading game. Fatigue can blind you to the obvious. When you’re in this state, your mind is more likely to skip over omitted words and misspellings. Wait at least an hour before proofreading anything. Better yet, sleep on it and return to your task in the morning.
2. Know your enemies.
If you’re counting on spell check to catch every error, think again. Homonyms and proper nouns are notorious for evading even the best spell-check software. Worse yet, most word processors have automatic formatting and spell change functionalities. In other words, your word processor might change the spelling of a word you’ve already typed without asking your permission. Learn as much as you can about your word processor and the spell check function it employs. That way you can maximize its efficacy without creating an opportunity for errors.
3. Don’t lose sight of the basics.
Many novice writers allow themselves to become bogged down in grammatical rules. When proofreading a long document, they forget the basics and start changing things unnecessarily. If you find that you have a tendency to overcorrect your documents, keep a basic punctuation guide handy. Refer back to it whenever you need to refresh your memory.
4. Repetition is key.
In the world of proofreading, once is never enough. If you’re writing in an academic or business setting, your writing is expected to be error free. Allow enough time to proofread the whole project twice. The first time, try to catch any major spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. The second time, tweak any sentence structures that don’t suit your fancy.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.