4th March 2023
5 Proofreading Tips | Checklist and Examples
Proofreading is the final polish of a document, completed before submission or publication. It involves checking the work for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors as well as word choice and consistency.
It’s important to proofread your work because every writer makes small errors that can lower the credibility of your writing and distract readers. In today’s post, we’ll go over our top five tips for effective proofreading.
1. Develop a Proofreading Checklist
Using a checklist can be helpful when you’re proofreading. Since there are so many things to watch out for, a checklist will ensure you don’t forget or miss anything. Here’s one you can copy and paste for future use:
● Spelling: Check for misspelled and commonly confused words:
● Grammar: Check for subject–verb agreement, verb tenses, and article use:
● Punctuation: Check for proper use of periods, commas, semicolons, colons, apostrophes, and quotation marks:
● Capitalization: Check for capitalization of proper nouns, the first word of sentences, and specific words in titles and headings formatted with title case (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.):
● Formatting: Check for consistency in font use, spacing, and alignment.
● Contractions: Do not use contractions in academic or formal writing:
We’ll → we will
They’ve → they have
● Clarity: Check for wordiness, redundancy, and awkward phrasing.
● Accuracy: Check for factual errors or inaccuracies.
● Citations and the reference list: Check for proper in-text citation and reference list formatting.
● Consistency: Check for consistency in language, tone, and style.
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If you’re a professional proofreader or just want to edit your work like a pro, check out our official proofreading checklist here.
2. Take a Break Before Proofreading
After putting in the time and effort to write, revise, and edit a piece of text, give your eyes a break. Leave the task for a few days if you can, and when you continue proofreading, do so in a setting that’s different from where you wrote the piece.
This will help you shift from writing mode to proofreading mode and allow you to focus on errors and inconsistencies. That shift is especially important when you’re the writer because editing your own work objectively is more of a challenge than editing someone else’s.
3. Read Aloud and Use a Tool
For many proofreaders, reading the text aloud helps them catch errors the mind autocorrects when reading silently. Even better, there are tools that can read aloud for you. Microsoft Word has a Read Aloud function, as do most other word processing systems.
Be sure to keep spelling and grammar checkers turned on, as they’ll point out little things you might miss, including punctuation issues and sentence structure. You can also run your work through a proofreading tool, such as Grammarly. Just be careful not to rely too heavily on these tools, as they won’t always pick up on context or observe preferences in tone and style.
4. Proofread Backward
Reading the text backward can also help you spot mistakes you missed. This means reading the last sentence, checking it for errors, and then moving on to the sentence before it. Do this until you’re back at the start.
Proofreading this way helps you zero in on individual sentences and isolate areas without being distracted by the surrounding content or the flow of the document. The technique is especially useful when you want to focus on one proofreading element at a time.
5. Get a Second Opinion
Having another set of eyes look at your work is invaluable. Whether we’re experienced in proofreading or not, we all miss things in our own writing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the proofreading process, consider passing the job to a professional who will proofread your writing without biases.
You can also have a friend, family member, or coworker take a look at your work. They might have suggestions about passages that could be more concise, areas that are too wordy or aren’t clear, and issues with consistency and tone.
Proofreading may seem inconsequential, but it’s incredibly important. Errors and inconsistencies are distracting and can alter the meaning of your writing. They also undermine your qualifications as a writer and expert on your topic.
When you’re proofreading your work, we suggest that you use a checklist, take breaks, read the work aloud, take advantage of proofreading tools, proofread the document backward, and have someone else look at it.
If you’d like an expert to do the job for you, though, we’re here to help! Try out a sample of our service for free.
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