- Books, Literature, and Writing
Five Tips To Improve Proofreading Your Writing
DO YOU MAKE MISTAKES?
Yes, I am being facetious. Of course you make mistakes in your writing. Everyone does and that is why the process of editing is so important. If we did not edit and police our work I shudder to think of what our finished product might look like.
I don’t know about you, but often times I will re-read my articles and still miss mistakes that I have made. I have been known to re-read four and five times and completely skim over a very obvious boo-boo. I would not be shocked to find out that there is an error somewhere in this article. There is a very simple reason why that happens. Our minds are pre-programmed because we were the ones who wrote the material. Once we have written our article, the words are arranged in order in our brains, so that when we re-read it we see what we believe we wrote. It is a common mistake in proofreading and that is why I have tossed together a few ideas that might help you proofread with a little more accuracy.
Below, then, are five suggestions that will help you eliminate editing mistakes. Try one, try three or try them all, but I am convinced that if you do try them you will publish an error-free article.
Remember what I said earlier: Once you write something, the words you wrote are programmed in your brain. In order to gain a fresh perspective of your work, set it aside once you have finished it, and don’t proofread it for a day. Let it sit and gather some dust for 24 hours before doing your editing. I think you will be surprised by what you find.
This is, in effect, a way to de-program your brain. Is that even a word? Well, for this article it is! By taking some time off you will allow your brain to forget what you wrote, thus giving you a better perspective once it comes time to edit.
I learned this one back in the 60’s believe it or not and it has never failed me. There is something about hearing your work that allows you to spot your mistakes easier. For one thing it helps you to hear the cadence of your words as a reader would “hear” it, and awkward phrasing becomes apparent when the words are read aloud. Try it once and I promise you will use it again for every article you write in the future.
This technique is a bit time-consuming but it works. Start at the end of your article and read the sentences in reverse order. This will allow you to see a sentence as it stands alone and not as it relates to the rest of the article.
Again, the mind is pre-programmed to see the sentences in a particular order, and the purpose of this proofreading trick is to shake up that order and be able to look at each sentence objectively. Try it on this paragraph and see what I’m talking about.
WATCH FOR SPELL-CHECK GREMLINS
I shouldn’t have to tell you this but I will nonetheless. Spell check on a computer is not infallible. The computer cannot tell the difference between their, there and they’re. Weak and week are both spelled correctly but have different meanings, and in certain sentences either might be correct according to the spell-check program.
In addition, some sentence structure may be awkward at best, and your grammar program will not catch it.
Bottom line: Do not get lazy and expect your computer program to make you a better writer. It will not happen. Trust not a machine for they have no conscience! I just made that up. How do you like it?
Are these suggestions helpful?
HAVE A FRIEND READ YOUR WORK
When all else fails enlist the help of a friend or relative to proofread your work. My wife Bev is my proofreader, and she oftentimes can point out a sentence or paragraph that is ambiguous and does not say what I intended to say. In fact, on articles that I consider very important, I will read them out loud to her and then have her read them by herself. If something you have written is important to you, then don’t you think you should do everything possible to guarantee that all mistakes have been caught and corrected?
THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH FOR NOW
There are other tricks you can use, but these five should help you eliminate most mistakes.
Why is this important? I have had some of my readers ask that question in the past. The point that they wanted to make was that their writing is an expression of their thoughts and beliefs and really who they are. Why should they possibly alter their thoughts by worrying about proper grammar?
I guess I would answer them this way. Most readers who are educated are reading snobs. I include myself in that description. I expect the rules of grammar to be followed, and I am somewhat offended when I find grammatical or spelling errors. In fact, I will stop reading if I see it happen often in an article or book.
Yes, I understand that e.e. cummings was able to snub his nose at the reading establishment, but I wouldn’t count on too many cummings wannabes getting away with it. If you are writing an article or book for an audience, then you need to understand what that audience expects, and one thing the majority of them expect is good grammar. Fact of life so get used to it!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)