If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. No editor is going to complain about the number of errors he didn’t find in your writing. Use these tips to polish your prose before you send it out.
1. Give yourself a case of amnesia.
Wait at least an hour before proofreading, overnight is ideal. As long as what you just wrote is fresh in your mind, you’ll be “reading from memory” rather than what’s actually on the page.
2. Track down the usual suspects.
We all have those words or phrases we routinely mangle. If you know you’re prone to confusing “your” and “you’re” when you type, or that you have a habit of spelling “definitely” definately, use your word processor’s search feature to check each occurrence.
3. Talk to yourself.
Nothing makes a flawed sentence stand out like hearing it read aloud. Read your work to yourself and listen to the flow of the words. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to catch choppy sentences, mangled modifiers, and grammar errors this way.
4. Do a double (or triple) take.
Focus on one problem at a time and make multiple passes when you proofread. For instance, you might read through once to check your punctuation, a second time for spelling, and a third for the overall flow of the sentences.
5. Put it in reverse.
Read the work backward a word at a time to catch spelling errors. Sounds silly, but it works. Reading backward keeps you from breezing through whole sentences and focuses your attention on each individual word.
Do you have any proofreading tips to share? Let’s talk about them in the comments.