6 keys to proofreading properly

Have you seen that popular meme kicking around on social media that sums up most of our proofreading efforts?

This is so true – but why?

Reading your own work is a massive challenge, primarily because the brain reads what you think you’ve written rather the actual words. So, we have come up with 5 easy steps so you never send that embarrassing mistake in your essay to your supervisor or in your cover letter to a potential internship contact.

Eliminate the common grammar pitfalls

So often work arrives with the same mistakes. For example, ‘undergo’ is one word but ‘under way’ is always two. By knowing the difference between ‘over/more than’ and ‘fewer/less’ (for example) you can help to cut out frighteningly common errors.

Think outside the box

You’ve done the hard work. Checking content should be a piece of cake. But, as we all know, our minds likes to play tricks on us and so we read what we think we’ve written rather than the actual text, creating room for error. Sometimes you need a fresh approach. Reading your work out loud can help, although this can be difficult in an open plan office. Others start from the bottom and read in reverse, providing vital disruption to thoughts. If this isn’t helping, maybe ask a friend to proofread your work as a fresh perspective could be just what you need.

Leave it!

Was the previous tip unsuccessful? You are always more likely to notice mistakes when the text seems “new” to you. Leave important work for at least 48 hours, or as much as you can spare, before you continue down this list of actions.

Go back to basics

Spelling. Double spaces. Punctuation. We take them for granted and that can often be our undoing. Also double-check names, both of people and companies/organisations. It only takes a second to ensure they’re correct and it sets you off for a good start and not the awkward reply with someone correcting you on their name in the email.

Read more than the text

These days content comes in all shapes and sizes. Videos and pictures are often embedded within online articles, while social media feedback can often be found as part of printed work. These extra elements widen the opportunity for error to creep in. Take a few final extra moments to ensure all elements – not just the written content – are accurate, relevant and add to the story.

Print it out

While we care immensely about saving natural resources, we must acknowledge that it’s easier to spot errors if the document is printed before reading. Sometimes looking at a screen jumbles things up, so a hard copy usually works to find those small, fixable errors.

Anna-Juliette Hamilton

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