Thursday, April 22, 2010

Power Proofreading - 10 Steps to Become a Better Proofreader

Guest blog by David Walshe

It's hard enough to get people to read what you write, but when your writing is also riddled with errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and sentence structure, it's even more difficult.

Power proofreading may be the solution. Take the time to make sure that your writing flows for your reader and then develop a process that quickly and efficiently eliminates the errors that inevitably detract from easy readability. Professional proofreading or proofreading courses can sometimes be a necessary option; however, there's no excuse for not having at least a basic knowledge of good spelling, grammar and sentence structure. Show your reader the respect he or she deserves by carefully proofreading everything you write.

Proofreading is rarely a pleasurable task; however, with a set procedure and a few sensible tips, you can make it at least an efficient process that creates a more enjoyable and productive experience for your readers:

1. Hard Copy - Try to proofread on a printed, hard copy rather than on a computer screen. This will aid concentration and has the added benefit of reducing eye stress. The ability to move your proofreading to different heights (compared with set at the height of a screen) enables you to move your neck to different angles and avoid neck and back strain.

2. Concentrate - Avoid distractions and interruptions. It would be nice to think that you could proofread effectively and watch television at the same time, but unfortunately it can't be done if you want the best possible results.

3. Treat Spell Checker Software with Caution - In the phrase "There clothes were dirty" the incorrect use of "there" (rather than "their") would not be picked up by Spell Checker.

4. Punctuation - Punctuation errors can be hard to find and easy to miss. Remember that correct punctuation helps flow and readability and is an important courtesy that should be paid to your reader.

5. Use Proof Reading Symbols - develop your own or use the proof reading symbols commonly used in the industry. These will "standardise" your changes and make it easier for you to develop consistency throughout your work.

6. Back-track - Try reading your work from the last word in the last sentence, backwards. This forces you to read every word and is a valuable aid to picking up errors (especially missed words) that may be overlooked when we assume what's on the page.

7. Take a Break - Don't work for any longer than 30 minutes at one time. This reduces tiredness and enhances concentration.

8. Read Out Loud - Another very popular and important trick used in proof reading. By reading out loud, you read each word independently, which increases the chance of finding all manner of errors, including missed or repeated words.

9. Get Someone Else to Proofread Your Work - go over it firstly yourself and then ask someone else to take a look. Apart from offering a second "pair of eyes", another person is likely to be more detached than the author and offer a different perspective on the flow, tone, effectiveness and appeal of the piece.

10. Proofreading Practice - Like everything else, don't underestimate the importance of practising the skill. Look carefully at the writing in newspapers, books, advertising, websites, etc. and you'll gradually notice more and more errors as your proofreading "eye" develops.

These simple steps are just an indication of easy ways that can help to reduce errors in your writing and make it more appealing for your reader. Take a disciplined approach to your proofreading and it will become a more effective and successful process.

And by the way, did you notice the use of both "proofreading" and "proof reading" in the foregoing? Well, if you thought you'd caught me out, you didn't. I personally like "proofreading" (for no particular reason) but both are perfectly acceptable in UK and US English.

If you need it, here's the best and least expensive professional proofreading on the net.

David Walshe is a prolific freelance writer on numerous subjects that engage his professional and personal interests. His entertaining and insightful pieces have appeared in numerous publications and have provided the lead-in to the regular speaking engagements he fulfills in his local region.

You can contact David on

And for many more tips and other information on proofreading, go to...


  1. Thanks for sharing these tips! I'll try keeping these in mind as I edit my manuscript. =)


  2. Great tips thanks. It's always useful to understand how others do this vital step.

  3. Speaking of proofreading, it's one word, not two as you often have it here.

  4. Both "proofreading" and "proof reading" may be acceptable in UK and US English, but from an editorial standpoint it is not acceptable to mix different forms of the same word in a single work. If they are both correct, then pick one and be consistent throughout your work. Consistency -- or lack there of -- is one of the biggest issues I find in the work that I edit.

    Marty Halpern
    More Red Ink

  5. Keen content, but I found a few errors in your opening paragraphs:

    1. A space should separate your first and second paragraphs.

    2. "...a necessary option, however there's no excuse..." should be punctuated "a necessary option; however, there's no excuse...."

    3. The conjunctive-adverb rule above also applies to "...a pleasurable task, however with a set...."

    4. A comma needs to go between "tips" and "you" in that long introductory clause.

    "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).

    Geoff M. Pope


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