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Writing

How to Proofread Your Writing: 5 Tips for Effective Proofreading

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 8, 2020 • 3 min read

The final step of editing is ensuring error-free work. You can enlist the editing services of a professional proofreader—if it’s your own writing—or check the work yourself. Whichever you decide, it is important to understand what the proofreading process entails.

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What Is Proofreading?

Proofreading is the part of the editing process that involves re-reading your own work or someone else’s piece of writing in order to catch mistakes like typos, grammatical errors, formatting errors, and missing words.

Proofreading should not be confused with copyediting, which is the act of making sure organization and word usage stay as clear and understandable as possible. A copyeditor works to ensure the reader will not get lost in extraneous detail, or bogged down by poorly-structured phrases. A copyediting job may also involve research of a written topic, and the vetting of sources. Proofreading, however, is reserved for the final stage of your draft.

Can You Proofread Yourself?

When it comes to proofreading services, you can either do it yourself, or you can hire a professional editor—however there are pros and cons to each one:

  • Proofreading your own work is more cost-effective for most writers, as professional proofreading can be expensive depending on the length and involvement of the service. If you’re confident enough in your writing skills and the piece is short, the editing process may not be difficult or time-consuming.
  • Hiring a proofreader can make the editing process easier as professional editors come equipped with knowledge of style guides, the publishing industry, and are more adept at catching spelling errors and other grammatical mistakes. It might be a good idea to hire one if you’re self-publishing a novel or need assistance with a longer work, and can afford to enlist a professional’s help.
  • You can also enlist a friend you trust to proofread your work. A second set of eyes on a piece of writing helps to catch any grammatical mistakes or areas that don’t make sense.
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5 Tips for Proofreading

The following editing and writing tips can help your proofreading skills and make sure you catch all the errors in your final draft:

  1. Edit a hard copy. If you’re looking at your computer screen or reading off a cell phone for too long, chances are you’ll miss common errors. Editing from a printed copy is a proofreading technique that may allow you to see various misspellings and other punctuation errors you did not catch the first time through. A print out is less strenuous on the eyes, and can make it easier to find typographical errors. Also, be sure to check to page numbers for sequentiality if your writing spans more than one page.
  2. Double-check for homonyms. Words that sound alike but have different meanings are homonyms. Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings. Sometimes it can be easy to overlook words like these and they can be easy to mix up.
  3. Watch for punctuation errors. Aside from misspelled words, special attention should be paid to misplaced apostrophes, commas, and other punctuation marks. Making sure to include endings to your parentheses and quotation marks is another error to look out for.
  4. Read aloud. Reading aloud can help you spot places for better word choice or improving sentence structure, like run-ons and fragments. Hearing the words you’ve written either by yourself or read by someone else may give you a new outlook.
  5. Take a break. Walking away from the writing and coming back to it later with fresh eyes can greatly improve your ability to spot spelling mistakes and various other errors. Take a stroll outside, get a drink of water, or try meditating for a few minutes to reset your mind and come back to it anew.

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