How to be a better proofreader

Almost everyone is a part-time proofreader, whether it’s checking over something brief written by a colleague or reading a proof of an entire Annual Report. Yet, for a task we all do regularly and one that is essential in delivering quality, few people receive any real training in how to proofread effectively.

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Remember, you’re probably already a proofreader, but here are a few tips to make you a better one.

Concentrate

Our brains are remarkable in that they can correct mistakes as we read them without any fuss. Unfortunately, this is why so many mistakes go unnoticed and why concentration is everything in proofreading. Don’t be distracted, you need to read each and every word, so ignore your email, halt your conversations and turn off the radio.

Print it out

One way to remove some distractions is to read a hard copy. Reading on paper is different to reading on a screen and the new format can help you to spot mistakes you may have missed. Reading it aloud can also help you to catch anything else, as well ensuring the piece flows nicely.

Break it down

When proofreading, you’re actually checking a number of things. Accuracy, spelling, grammar, consistency and even design elements such as fonts, size and colour. Trying to check everything at once is hard, so review in stages.

Check facts

If possible, you should be checking the information in the writing, as well as the writing. Pay particular attention to names or any information that will cause particular embarrassment if it’s wrong.

Get by with a little help

Two sets of eyes are always better than one, especially if you wrote the piece that needs reading. Errors are much harder to spot in something you created and have been poring over for hours, so get some help.

Take a time out

Proofreading can be a quick ten minute task, or hours of hard work. If it’s the latter you’re faced with, be realistic. You can’t be expected to concentrate for that amount of time, so take regular breaks. And don’t try to rush as that is guaranteed to make you miss the mistakes you are looking for.