A Lesson Learned About Proofreading

Robert Valcourt
Apr 30, 2013
A Lesson Learned About Proofreading

Learn five steps that will improve your ability to proofread!

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Ben Groulx recently showed  me a design piece used long ago. We were both stunned when we noticed an obvious spelling mistake. As a result from the exercise, I adopted a new process that has helped me become a better proofreader.

Expect To Find Mistakes

Ben told me there was a spelling error in the content, but didn't immediately tell me where it was. Knowing that there was a mistake in the content that had previously made it through the proofing stage somehow changed the way I looked at it. The mistake jumped out at me right away. Why didn't I see this before? Why was it so easy to find now? The difference was that this time around I EXPECTED there to be a spelling mistake.

I decided to apply this new way of approaching proofreading to other "in-progress" content I had at hand; content that had been previously read thoroughly. This time, I read the content expecting to find something new, even though I had already reviewed it. The result? Very quickly I found a couple changes that needed to be made.

I now apply both techniques when I proofread content, ads, and even Website code. Once, the usual way using methods from the list below, and once more EXPECTING to find a mistake. I find that I look at the content/media very differently during both reviews.

Other Ways To Proofread Effectively

The following five steps should help you become a better proofreader.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the errors you commonly make by looking over writing that has already been marked. Make a list of your errors, and check your writing for each of them.
  2. Carefully and slowly read your writing out loud. Often your ear will hear what your eye did not see.
  3. Read your writing, sentence by sentence, from the last sentence to the first sentence. This technique interrupts the logical flow of the prose and neutralizes any impression of correctness arising from your knowledge of what you meant to say.
  4. Use your dictionary to check any words of which you are unsure, and to check for correct prepositions, verb tenses, and irregular forms.
  5. Look out for homonyms. It is quite probable that similar soundings spellings and words can slip past our eyes. So better watch out for them.

Oh, and don't forget the spell check. It'll help you save a bit of time in most cases!

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