My apologies for not getting a #WritingWednesday post up on 5th September. I’ve been struggling with some personal issues, but that’s no excuse. Today I’m happy to welcome back Fabida Abdulla, who after a long hiatus has written this very useful post for us – The Right Way To Proofread Your Own Work. ~ Corinne
The Right Way To Proofread Your Own Work
“I am my own biggest critic. Before anyone else has criticized me, I have already criticized myself.” ―
If you’re a writer, you know what it’s like to be in ‘the zone’. There’s this sudden flood of ideas flowing in, and you can’t seem to write out words fast enough to catch up with them. You notice nothing and no one around you; the world is just you and your writing. And when you’re done, you experience such an incredible feeling of satisfaction, that you just want to send off your finished piece and sit down with a well-deserved cup of coffee.
Just like you, I’m all too familiar with the scene described above. As tempting as it is to wind up my piece for the day, I know from past experience that it’s not at all a good idea to send it in without a proofread. And by proofreading, I don’t mean a quick once-over for spelling mistakes so helpfully underlined in red for you – proofreading means much more than that.
If you know your work is going to be reviewed by someone else anyway, you might wonder if you need to put in the time and effort to proofread it yourself. After all, you wrote it; you know how it is!
The truth is that even if there are more reviewers down the assembly line, it is important that you do your own proofreading first. What you put out should be the very best that you can. Here are some more reasons proofreading your own work:
1. A proofread document is more likely to be free from errors and of higher quality, which establishes your reputation as a professional. Shoddy work not just puts you in a bad light, it can also affect your job prospects.
2. If your article has a major error and other proofreaders or editors miss it before publishing, it can create some serious problems down the line. In other words, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen!
3. Copy that has been proofread and edited properly ensures that the entire write up flows smoothly without awkward interruptions or loose ends.
Having to read a hastily submitted article or blog post can completely mess up the reading experience, much like listening to a song on the radio with lots of static in between. Not very pleasant, right? That’s why you have to proofread!
Is there a right way to proofread your own work?
Proofreading your own work is harder than it sounds, because you have to make a conscious effort to go against your brain’s natural tendency to just ‘assume’ that what’s written is right. For instance, try reading this line here:
“The huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”
Despite the obvious spelling mistakes, you were able to read this sentence correctly. That’s because the human mind reads every word as a whole, not as individual letters; in short, your brain has it’s own prediction system in place. Your brain behaves pretty much the same way when you’re proofreading – you tend to skim over parts and your brain fills in the gaps in your head – not on paper.
This is why proofreading needs to be done properly to be effective. And no, you can’t hand it over to your colleague or friend. This is because you wrote that piece with a certain thought in mind, and you are the best person to judge if it has come across the way you intended it to. And no, a software can’t do it either. You’ll just have to make an intention, roll up your sleeves and dive right in!
10 Tips to Proofread Your Own Work the Right Way
1. Block out the time.
Proofreading needs a dedicated amount of time, so make sure you block it out in your calendar depending upon when you’re free from distractions. Put yourself in a critical mood rather than a creative one so nothing misses your watchful eye.
2. Know your style.
Before you start out, make sure you’ve settled upon the style you’d like to use. Whether its British or American spelling, using apostrophes or other options like numbering and using commas, have a proper style guide in place so you can refer to it as you proofread.
3. Print it out.
Many proofreading experts recommend printing out your document and making notes in it with a pencil. This is especially useful if the piece you’ve written is for a print medium like a magazine, so you get a feel of how the published piece will look. This also works for longer write-ups, which can be tedious to work with on screen alone.
4. Read Aloud.
Have you noticed how kids latch on to every word when you read to them? That’s the power of reading aloud! Reading aloud will put added focus on each word, and stop your brain from doing that ‘skimming over’ thing. I’ve personally tried this and have been surprised at the things that pop up!
5. Get the names right.
Be very careful with proper nouns. Cara may read your article and overlook the way you spelled ‘beleive’, but she won’t forgive you misspelling her name as ‘Car’! Pay particular attention when mentioning government agencies, national leaders or company names.
6. Do a fact check.
If you’ve used facts, statistics or references within your writing, be cautious and check each and every one of them, even if you did it while writing the piece. Have you added an extra zero somewhere? Missed out a decimal or a percentage sign? Forgot the Pvt. Ltd. in the company name? Mixed up Mrs. or Ms.? A small lapse can prove costly!
7. Watch out for repetitions.
When we write freely, it’s possible that we repeat the same point again in different paragraphs. Other examples of repetition are beginning many sentences with the same word, using ‘and’ over and over or maybe just having the same size for consecutive sentences. Fix these for writing that flows better.
8. Jump in sideways.
While our natural tendency is to start reading from the top, it also helps to jump in sideways too. Read from the middle towards the top or towards the bottom. Or start reading from the bottom of the paragraph. This is another technique to get your brain to pay more attention to individual words and sentences.
9. Don’t forget format.
Along with content, format is also important. Check the layout of the pages, the font size and consistency, headings as well as diagrams or images, if any. A good write up is a wholesome combination of all these elements, so make them a part of your proofreading checklist too.
10. Once is not enough.
You’ve followed all the steps, put in the time and proofread your entire document. But your job doesn’t end there. It’s likely that you’ve come up with some changes during this exercise, and now you need to implement them. See how the complete piece looks in its renewed avatar and make sure nothing sticks out like a sore thumb.
Yes, going about the right way to proofread your own work takes time, and when you’re on a tight deadline it can be tempting to skip over most of the steps and just assume everything is fine. But trust me, that little extra time and effort you put into perfecting your piece really pays off, and establishes your credibility as a reliable, responsible and thorough writer. Of course, being too hard on yourself doesn’t help! So find a balance and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.