Proofreading Tips

      Proofreading is the final stage of the writing process, the point where you clean up your work to present it to your readers. Proofreading is like checking your appearance in a mirror before going into a job interview: being neat and well groomed looms large in creating a good first impression, and the same principle applies to writing. Misspelled words, missing pages, mixed-up fonts, and other lapses send a negative message about your work—and about you. Most readers excuse an occasional error, but by and large readers are an intolerant bunch: too many errors will lead them to declare your writing—and maybe your thinking—flawed. There goes your credibility. So proofread your final draft with care to ensure that your message is taken as seriously as you want it to be.

  • Use your computer's grammar checker and spelling checker, but only as a first step, and know that they're not very reliable. Computer programs don't read writing; instead, they rely on formulas and banks of words, so what they flag (or don't flag) as mistakes may or may not be accurate. If you were
    to write, "Sea you soon," sea would not be flagged as misspelled because it is a word and it's spelled correctly even though it's the wrong word in that sentence.

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  • To keep your eyes from jumping ahead, place a ruler or piece of paper under each line as you read it. Use your finger or pen or pencil as a pointer.

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  • Some writers find it helpful to read the text one sentence at a time, beginning with the last sentence and working backward.

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  • Read your text out loud to yourself—or better, to others, who may hear problems you can't see. Alternatively, have someone else read your text aloud to you while you follow along on the page or screen.

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  • Ask someone else to read your text. The more important the writing is, the more important this step.

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  • If you find a mistake after you've printed out your text and are unable to print out a corrected version, make the change as neatly as possible in pencil or pen.

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