How to Proofread Like a Pro
  • 5-minute read
  • 20th March 2022

How to Proofread Like a Pro

When you’ve finished a big writing project, going back to the start to proofread it can feel like a drag. But checking your work for mistakes is worth every minute of the extra effort it takes.

In this post, we share five insider proofreading tips from our team of seasoned error-spotters:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time.
  2. Read your work aloud.
  3. Use spell checker (with caution).
  4. Correct repeated mistakes with “find and replace.”
  5. Check for one thing at a time.

Read on to explore these tips in detail, and soon, you’ll be proofreading like a pro!

1. Give Yourself Enough Time

Proofreading is a vital part of the writing process, not an optional task to tag onto the end. We recommend setting aside at least an hour for every 1,000 words.

Moreover, proofreading is a job that demands your full attention, so you should eliminate distractions as much as possible. For example, if you’re working on a screen, close every tab except for the document you’re working on. You may make an exception for your style guide if you’re using one, but everything else should be off-limits—especially social media!

Proofreading requires intense concentration. If you attempt too much at once, you can easily lose focus and start missing things. For this reason, we’d advise you to take regular breaks and keep your energy up with drinks and healthy snacks.

2. Read Your Writing Out Loud

When you listen to someone reading your writing, grammar errors will be more obvious. In addition, you’ll notice things like clumsy phrasing, complicated sentences, and overused words.

You could read it aloud yourself, but ideally, you should get someone else to do it. Text-to-speech software, which converts typed text into audio, is perfect for this. Text-to-speech programs will read lengthy works without getting tired or distracted. Also, they will read exactly what you’ve written on the page, while a person will often read what they expect to see. For instance, if you write out instead of our, a human reader might not notice your mistake. 

3. Don’t Trust Spell Checker

It’s useful to use a spell-checking tool to highlight typos. However, you can’t rely on them to spot every spelling mistake. For example, if you’d typed there instead of their, spell checking software wouldn’t necessarily flag it as an error, because their is a word, just not the one you wanted.

When it comes to spotting typos, there’s no substitute for a human being!

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4. Use the “Find and Replace” Tool

“Find and replace” is another useful feature for proofreading. You can use it to make multiple corrections of the same error. So, if you notice you haven’t capitalized the word Tuesday on the first page, you can easily correct this error throughout the document by using “find and replace.”

In both Microsoft Word and Google docs, this function is accessed using Ctrl + F. This opens the “find and replace” dialog box. You then enter the text you wish to alter in the “find” field—in our example, tuesday—and what you want to change it to under “replace with”—in this case, Tuesday.

This tool is particularly handy for removing unwanted extra spaces after a period. Simply type a period and two spaces into the “find” field and a period with only one space in the “replace with” field.

5. Focus on One Issue at a Time

There are so many things to look out for when proofreading your writing that you’re unlikely to spot everything that needs to be changed at once. Even experienced proofreaders go over a document several times before they’re satisfied with it.

We recommend checking for one kind of error at a time. These are the things you need to look out for:

  • Spelling, including consistent use of contractions (e.g., can’t, shouldn’t.)
  • Capitalization and punctuation, including commas, periods, quotation marks, dashes, and parentheses. A single space should always follow end punctuation (i.e., periods, commas, question marks, and exclamation points.)
  • Abbreviations must be used consistently. The full term should be used in the first instance, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses.
  • Formatting of numbers, dates, and times.
  • Consistent use of fonts, header styles, etc.

Summary: The Importance of Proofreading 

As we have seen, there’s a lot to think about when proofreading your work. But it’s worth taking the time to weed out any mistakes and make your writing shine.

If there’s any aspect of grammar or other writing rules that you’re uncertain about, you might find the answer in our blog. And if you’re short on time, our dedicated team can handle the proofreading for you.

We have proofreaders working around the clock, so when you send us a document of up to 10,000 words, you’ll get it back error-free within 24 hours! To find out more about what we do, you can send us 500 words to proofread for free.

Alternatively, if you think you’ve got what it takes to go pro with your proofreading, why not become a qualified proofreader and start making a flexible income?

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