7 Proofreading Tips - How to Proofread Your Own Writing

Seriously? Nobody proofread the sign?
Seriously? Nobody proofread the sign? | Source

Are you good at proofreading your own writing?

As an English teacher, not to mention someone who loves language and grammar, I am often asked to proofread for people--papers, memos, letters, you name it. The variety of errors I see are wide and numerous. Some people are better than others at proofreading their own writing. Sometimes when I'm proofreading, I wonder if the person even read over what was written before passing the document on to me to catch everything.

Whether you're already good at proofreading your own work or you need improvement with this skill, I think we could all brush up with some reminders of what to look for when proofreading.


1. Use Spell Check and Grammar Check.

Using spell check, and grammar check, if your software program includes it, is a basic part of Proofreading 101. If you're using Microsoft Word, don't ignore those red underlines that tell you the word is misspelled...or the green lines that tell you there's a problem with the grammar.

Look at suggested spellings. Play around with the sentence structure until the grammar is correct. But remember that spelling and grammar checks don't catch everything. Using those helpful features is only the beginning of doing a good proofreading job.

2. Read Your Writing Aloud.

To my students, I often suggest that they read their writing aloud. For things like awkward wording or omitted words, reading a paper out loud is a great way to catch mistakes. Explaining what is wrong with an awkward sentence can be difficult to express to a writer. Reading the sentence or phrasing aloud often reveals to the student what is wrong. He or she can hear that the sentence sounds funny. Omitted words, too, are easily noticed when the writer reads the sentence and hears that something is missing.

3. Look Up Words When In Doubt

If you are unsure about the spelling of a word, look it up. Use a print dictionary or use an online dictionary, such as dictionary.com. In addition, be extra careful about homophones, or words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Your spell check won't notice the difference if the word is spelled correctly, and grammar check doesn't often pick these errors up either. So look these words up if you need to in order to make sure of the way they are used.

Homophones include words such as their/they're/there, to/too, your/you're, be/bee, here/hear, pear/pair, bear/bare, and many, many more. Read carefully to try to catch these and other words that are misused.

4. Review Your Grammar Skills

If you just aren't very good at grammar, at spelling, or punctuation, then do what you can to brush up on it. Grab a grammar handbook that covers the basics.

Review the areas you don't know well, whether it's punctuation, verb tenses, or commonly confused words. If you don't know the difference between "to" and "too," then learn it!

The comma is one of the most misused punctuation marks. If you're clueless on commas, learn when you're supposed to use them or leave them out. Or at least have a reference book where you can look things up when you need to know.

5. Go Back to Your Work Later

Setting your writing aside and going back to it later is an excellent way to catch errors. I do this all the time. I have never turned in a paper in college or submitted an article on HubPages without going back to it several times, usually over the course of several days. After looking at something over and over, I find that I can read it no more and have to put it aside. That's when I know that I'm not even really taking in what I'm reading. Coming back to my writing fresh, I often catch errors I didn't see before, in addition to finding that my creative abilities have returned, making major revisions easier, too.

6. Print It Out

With papers I've written in the past, I have always printed them off the computer in order to read and review them. I don't know about you, but I find it much easier to process what I've written on paper rather than on a screen.

When the document requires concentration and attention, and needs a lot of revising and editing, printing it out is especially helpful. Try printing out your work to proofread, writing in corrections and changes, then adding in the changes on the electronic document.

7. Let Someone Else Read It

Finally, let's face it. If you are really horrible at proofreading and have done all you can to improve your writing, you may have to ask someone to read over it for you. You may have a friend you can ask who is good at proofreading. Just make sure you proofread and correct all you can first before unloading your work onto someone else. Finally, if you have a document that requires perfection, you may have to consider a professional proofreader.

If you haven't had much success with proofreading your own work in the past, try these tips to see if you can improve your skills.

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Comments 92 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Excellent tips! I've gone over so many of my hubs and found errors, and I'm sure some still have errors.

Up ++++


Naima Manal profile image

Naima Manal 4 years ago from NY

Thanks for the advice. Proofreading adds extra time to completing a piece of work, but it is well worth it to slow down and do an extra check.


lovebuglena profile image

lovebuglena 4 years ago from Staten Island, NY

Great tips for writers when proofreading their own work. Thanks for sharing.

I think for many writers (especially those for whom English is the native language and they are experts on grammar, etc.) the problem with not catching all the typos is because they don't read with their eyes. This happens to me on occasion and hence I miss a typo or two that is right in front of my eyes. I hope you understand what I am trying to say here. :)


Angelo52 profile image

Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

This is an excellent article. Some of the people that need to read this are the authors of some of the kindle books. I have read more than one aspiring author's work whose story line was ruined by spelling, bad grammer, and missing information.


Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

This is great advice, especially for writers.

I am guilty of making grammatical and spelling mistakes. Some of my hubs probably have mistakes I haven't picked up on...

I always ask my partner to go through my work and see if he can pick out the errors. But going back to it later is also good advice. If I have just written something I may be tired, or read it how I want to read it.

Voting up and useful!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Susan! I hate it when I find errors in mine after publishing. As hard as we try sometimes, we still catch things, huh? But we try! :-)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Naima--Oh, yes, well worth the time! Work that has been well-proofread is much more credible than that which hasn't been. We can't always be perfect, but we can sure try! Thanks for reading and commenting!


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 4 years ago from Sweden

This can never be done to much! I check my hubs and correct the errors I find in them as good as I can but I am sure there are more left! Great tips for proofreading! Voted up, useful and bookmarked!

Tina


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Excellent tips Grammar Geek!!! I do it all, yet I still manage to find one or two or three down the road :))


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

lovebuglena--I think maybe I know what you mean. People don't read with their eyes always; they fill in what things should be with their minds. Is that it? And don't worry--Native English speakers aren't necessarily experts in their own language, especially when it comes to grammar! Keep at it!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

You wrote this after reading my sloppy work didn't you Vicki? Lol lol. I hope not!

Proof reading is so borrrrring...I know it's why I hate doing it - but I do, and I use spell check, and still stuff gets through...pffft. But I can appreciate the value of it - and your tips! Thank you!


Highvoltagewriter profile image

Highvoltagewriter 4 years ago from Savannah GA.

This is a great hub for those like myself that have never been very good at proofreading my own work, thanks!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Angelo, thanks for the compliment. That's sad that kindle books have so many errors! They shouldn't be allowed to publish them!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Emma--Thanks for the input. I know how easy it is to NOT see things when I'm tired. Going back over things later really helps!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

thoughtforce--Yeah,I know, it seems sometimes no matter how much we read them, we still find errors. Hard work, huh? :-)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Sunshine. I sometimes find errors, too, or at least stupid-sounding sentences that need to revise! :-)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

No way, REAL! You do great! Sometimes stuff gets through for all of us, dadgummit! We just have to do the best we can, huh? :-)


CreateHubpages profile image

CreateHubpages 4 years ago

I love to drink coffee with ice.


buddhaanalysis 4 years ago

thank you


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago

Great advice for all us budding writers. Voted up interesting and useful. SHARING socially.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 4 years ago

Dear Victoria ~ I wanted to click "excellent" button, but they only have one for "awesome." Close enough! Each suggestion will help people improve their finished product if they only take the time to apply them. (HUGS) Debby


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Highvoltagewriter--So glad that these tips will help you!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

CreateHubpages--I guess you focused more on the coffee picture than the article. LOL Yes, iced coffee is good. :-)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

buddhaanalysis--You're welcome!

molometer--Glad you liked the hub. Thanks for voting and sharing it!


Hunbbel Meer profile image

Hunbbel Meer 4 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan.

Fantastic tips, Victoria. There are various editors, who say that errors can only be mitigated, and not removed. I believe that these tips can be very effective in mitigating some of the very basic errors in our writing. Thank you for sharing.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Debby--I'm touched! Excellent, huh? Thank you! Yes, we all should take time to proofread. Makes our work much more professional!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You're welcome, Hunbbel. Every tip helps, and I hope these do! Thanks for your input.


annart profile image

annart 4 years ago from SW England

I'm not too bad at proofreading but this is a great summary for general use. I find that coming back to a written piece later is really good; proofreading straightaway means we often read what we expect to be there, rather than what's actually there. I too find it much easier to correct work which is printed - it's all laid out before me rather than scrolling down. Someone else reading over your text also works well, not only for spelling and grammar but also for improving the presentation of ideas. Voted up and useful - for everyone!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago

Good tips. I notice sometimes, even when you've read a few times over, you may still miss it. Getting someone to read it through helps. Thanks and rated up.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

annart--So true about reading "what we expect to be there" rather than what actually. Thanks for the great comments and votes!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

anglnwu--It's hard to catch everything, huh? I know what you mean. We just have to keep working at it. Thanks for the comments and the vote!


ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States

Great tips!! I love that you mention that relying on spell checker or grammar checker isn't enough. I couldn't count how many times I said that to my students. Homonyms/homophones are not often caught and corrected in programs like Word, nor are simple misspellings like 'a' when you meant to type 'and'. It's super important to read the work aloud to listen for errors or areas of improvement.

I'll be linking this hub to mine about editing. Voted up, useful and awesome!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Practical--I try to remind students about relying on spell check, too. There is so much that goes into proofreading and editing. I've linked your hub to mine, too. Together, maybe we can clean up some writing out there! LOL! Thanks for linking mine, and thanks for the votes!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

These are especially important tips since we have nobody doing the editing for us. Voting this Up and Useful.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

I agree, Alocsin. It's a lot of pressure on us, but it behooves us to get things right. Thanks for reading and voting!


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Interesting post ..Thanks a lot


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, htodd. Much appreciated!


Junebug 39 4 years ago

I see we have some real good writers on this hub. Keep up the good work. There is alsway room for improvement.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Junebug! Your comment is much appreciated!


LaurenEC profile image

LaurenEC 4 years ago

Thanks for directing me to your hub on this topic. These are some great tips!

(If you need a laugh, you ought to check out "The Impotence of Proofreading" by Taylor Mali on youtube. A bit of adult humor, but he gives the subject quite a humorous look.)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You're welcome, Lauren! I'll check out that youtube video. If it's not too much adult humor, maybe I'll add it to my hub! Thanks!


timthechirpinbyrd profile image

timthechirpinbyrd 4 years ago from Newport News, VA

Great advice. Thank you.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You're welcome, timthechirpinbyrd! Hope you can use it!


kelleyward 4 years ago

Sound advice here Victoria! I use many of the tactics you highlighted including having my husband proofread some of my articles. I also look everything up when in doubt. Voted up and shared! Kelley


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Great tips! I know that I often read stuff out loud to myself and even then I don't always catch my errors. Your idea to leave your work and come back to it is great advice. I need to heed that one more. :) Voted up and shared.


mvillecat profile image

mvillecat 4 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

Great Hub! I pinned it for future reference.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Kelley! Glad you concur! :-)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

CC--I think that leaving and coming back to something is one of the best tips. Thanks for sharing!


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

It is so difficult for me to find typos in my own work because I know what it's supposed to say! I frequently pester my sister until she can proofread something for me.


jainismus profile image

jainismus 4 years ago from Pune, India

Thank you for sharing the tips. Generally I am in hurry when I am writing online, still I manage to most of the things you have suggested here.

Voted up and shared with followers.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Awesome, mvillecat! Hope it helps!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

reading it outloud, setting it down and coming back and having someone else read it are the best ways for me to catch an error. As a magazine editor, it's amazing to me how many people don't seem to proofread before submitting a piece to me for consideration. Pieces fraught with errors are almosy instantly rejected. UP and shared.


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

I agree with Natashath - it can be challenging to catch your own typos! Thanks for these tips!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Natashalh--That's a common problem to be able to see errors in one's own work. Getting someone else to read it is a great idea!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

These tips will be helpful to a lot of people. You know, I just recently learned about comma splicing. There is a lot to learn, especially for those of us who didn't study the craft formally. My spelling is terrible and I would be in a heep (sic) of trouble w/o spell check! I will share this!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

jainismus--You're welcome. I probably spend TOO much time proofreading, but I do think it's important. Thanks for commenting and sharing!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

PDX--I'm amazed by that, too, when people don't even seem to proofread it themselves before giving it to someone else--usually me--to proof! I just feel that people should be more thorough before passing off their work. Thanks for coming by!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

So true, Marcy!!! I see that all the time. Thanks for stopping by!


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

I really don't print out my hubs and I think this is a good tip. Thanks Victoria Lynn.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Victoria. These are all very useful tips for those of us who are grammatically challenged. I do read and re-read my hubs and do use spell check both in Word and HPs. I think my problem is with punctuation. Great hub. Thanks for sharing with us.


Pauline Davenport profile image

Pauline Davenport 4 years ago from Isle of Man

Hi Victoria

I've just this minute seen this on Twitter, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. I'm relatively new to Hub pages, having recently published my first Hub, and getting on with the next one. I'll definitely be using all of these tips. I've voted it it up and am sharing it on facebook. Thanks very much


dsaltmer 4 years ago

Some great tips there, Victoria. I'll certainly be using them as I get to grips with my first Hub!

Thank you very much!


rLcasaLme profile image

rLcasaLme 4 years ago from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The only thing I haven't done here is to let someone proofread my work for me. =)

I always print my work for checking. It's a lot easier than reading it in a brightly lit monitor, plus I can put marks on it.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Useful tips Victoria. I'm guilty of not really doing the proofreading sometimes when I'm in a rush to hit the publish button and then catching some errors just after publishing.

Thanks for reminding the need to do so every time.

Voted up and useful. Sharing this.


PrintOz profile image

PrintOz 4 years ago

Great hub Victoria! Proof-reading is a big part of any project.....Especially printing. Once you put the ink to paper you can't take it back. ;)


Chasuk 4 years ago

I agree with most of these, but I have a few additions.

Turn the spell and grammar check off while you are writing, and leave them off until you are ready to revise.

Brush up on grammar by reading works which are grammatically correct. Just because a work is published, doesn't mean that it is written well. In other words, be selective. As a writer, you are what you read.

Go back to your work _two weeks_ later. In the meantime, write something else. The more distance you have from your own work, the better.

Let someone else read your work, but only if you trust them. A functionally illiterate person can't give you constructive criticism, and it is constructive criticism that you need. That might not be kind to say, but it is true. Further, make sure that this trusted reader actually appreciates the type of material that you write. If you are writing erotic romance and your trusted reader only likes police procedurals, then you are both wasting your time.


Chasuk 4 years ago

One more point:

Read your writing aloud, but read it slowly and clearly, as if you were reading to a young child.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Such an important skill--and great tips!!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Glad it's helpful, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing it!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, ignugent! Much appreciated! So glad it's helpful.


Green Art profile image

Green Art 4 years ago

I usually read my writing out loud and go back to a piece later in the day if I'm having problems with it. I need to use spell checking software more often so I don't come across silly errors after I've published a hub. Voted up and useful!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

Once I started doing freelance I started doing most of those things you suggested. I find reading out loud to be very helpful. Great suggestions and useful hub.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

bedgiulio--Keep working on that punctuation. Hope this is helpful!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Pauline--So glad this hub found its way to you. It's great when we write something that is useful to people. Hope it helps. Thanks for sharing it, too!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

dsaltmer--Awesome! Good luck with your first hub. Welcome to HubPages!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

rLcasaLme--I agree that printed work is easier to read than something on a screen. Thanks for the input!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

rajan--I probably proofread too much sometimes. It takes me forever to finish a hub usually. Thanks for the input!!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

PrintOz--You are so right! Proofreading is so, so important!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Chasuk--Great ideas! The spell and grammar check can be distracting until you're ready to edit. Distance is good, too. And having someone proof who is competent is imperative, too. Thanks for all the input and ideas!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

So true, Audrey! thanks!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Green Art--Yes, make sure you spell check AND proofread to catch everything the spellcheck doesn't! Thanks for the votes!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Pamela--Thanks for the input!!!


Steve West profile image

Steve West 4 years ago from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

I enjoyed reading your hub. It was very helpful to me. My punctuation is really bad.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Steve, I'm glad it was helpful. Work on that punctuation!


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

Victoria, this was a very good informative article. These are all great tips to improve the quality of your articles. This will surely help others as it is very wise knowledge. I believe going back later to read your work helps me the best. It takes more time to publish it, but I often find mistakes that I didn't find earlier. Voted up and useful. Best wishes.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, lyricwriter! I think that going back several times is the best thing I've found. Thanks for the input and votes!


Birendra Singh 22 months ago

Dear Victoria,

Can you please help me to proofread about 2000 words for my website which I written. English is my secondary language and feel difficult to make it smooth. Please get back to me at birendras@jaishdiamonds.com. I requested to many other proofreaders, but no one has help me.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

Reading aloud usually helps me pick out what's wrong with what I have written. Sad to say, in my haste, I sometimes leave this out leading to regret when others point out my mistake.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 22 months ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Birendra Singh--If you're reading this, I'm sorry I didn't respond to this sooner. I sent you a private message.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 22 months ago from Arkansas, USA Author

aesta--Reading aloud is one of the best things! I always tell my students that. :-)


RachaelLefler profile image

RachaelLefler 8 months ago from Illinois

Good advice!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 8 months ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, RachaelLefler! I wish my students would try some of these tips! LOL!

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