How to Proofread Your Writing: Tips for Better Proofreading
Even the best writers make spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Unfortunately, these errors look unprofessional, make the writing harder to read, and damage the author’s credibility. Moreover, prospective editors or publishers may turn down your work because of excessive blunders. Have no fear, though: proofreading exists to catch all those pesky errors!
How is proofreading different from editing?
Proofreading comes after other editing has been completed. Several types of editing may happen earlier, like developmental, structural, and line editing. The main difference is that editing is more focused on the coherence of the story and the quality of the writing, while proofreading is a surface-level check. However, surface-level does not mean superficial. A proofreader can and will catch mistakes missed in earlier editing. Mainly, these will be minor slips (e.g., missed punctuation, typos, or spelling errors). Still, to ensure that your manuscript is as polished as possible, it is crucial to enlist the services of a proofreader.
Proofreading is more than fixing grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A proofreader makes sure the writing follows the style guide, checks indexes, looks for inconsistencies (Did that character’s name just change?), and finds formatting issues.
A proofreader does not fix the errors but flags them for an editor or a typesetter.
Who can proofread?
With enough knowledge and practice, anyone can proofread, but a professional proofreader will deliver the best final product.
Traditional publishing: The publisher will have an in-house proofreader or will hire one. Every book a publishing house produces must meet a high standard of quality. Releasing one with too many errors will damage a publisher’s reputation.
Self-publishing: An indie author can hire a proofreader or choose to proofread their own work. However, bear in mind that finding your own errors is difficult, and as the stigma of self-publishing dissipates, readers hold indie books to a higher standard as well. It may thus be worth it to look into hiring a professional editor and proofreader for your book.
Pros and cons of a professional proofreader
If you’re an indie author struggling to decide whether to hire a proofreader, consider these pros and cons.
Pros of hiring a proofreader:
- Fresh, trained eyes that are more likely to spot mistakes
- Knowledge beyond grammar and spelling (e.g., formatting and consistency issues)
- Greater efficiency
- More polished writing
- Higher credibility and professionalism
Cons of hiring a proofreader:
- Their schedule or availability
- The difficulty of finding the right proofreader to work with you
While hiring a professional is recommended (especially for large projects, like a book), there are many things a writer can proofread on their own. An author can easily proofread blog posts, a personal website, newsletters, and book marketing materials.
To proofread your own work, follow these tips for the best result:Get distance
Don’t start proofreading as soon as you are done writing. To ensure that you are viewing your work critically and being as objective as possible, put some distance between the writing and proofreading stages. After a suitable amount of time, you will be ready to look at the text with fresh eyes.Compile a list of your errors
For example, if you struggle to remember quotation rules, check for that specific thing first. This will help streamline the proofreading process and increase your overall efficiency.Focus on one type of mistake at a time
You can check spelling first, then read again for punctuation. This will ensure that you do not unintentionally overlook something. If you are scouting for a specific error, your attention will be heightened and undivided, and you will be less likely to miss instances of it.Print a copy
Many people find errors easier to spot on a physical page, likely because there is less strain on the eyes. By going from a digital copy to a physical one, you will be able to detect potential errors more easily. Essentially, by switching mediums, you will be forcing yourself to look at your writing with fresh eyes, which will help you catch mistakes.Read backward
Start with the last sentence and move to the preceding one. This helps home in on potential errors in each sentence. Also, you will not be distracted by the narrative.Read out loud
Firstly, this forces you to slow down. Secondly, if your eyes don’t catch it, your ears might! By reading your writing aloud, you will be better able to tell if a sentence sounds awkward or clunky.Double-check
Proofreading your own work will require multiple rounds. Make sure to budget the necessary time as proper proofreading is an involved process.
If you want the expertise only a professional proofreader can provide, ask about our services. We have a team of experienced professionals who are ready to help!