Proofreading is the last step in completing a letter, a school paper, a written article, a story or any other written work. During the proofreading process, attention is given to spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Proofreading should not be confused with editing. Editing is the process of checking for structural clarity in a written work. While errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation are often found during editing, a final proofreading process should be done before a written work is considered finished.
When you've finished writing and editing a piece, here are the steps to follow to proofread it carefully and thoroughly.
- Give yourself a break between editing and proofreading. It is best to wait at least a day before proofreading if possible. You are more likely to catch mistakes if you put some distance between when you write and when you proofread.
- Do not rely solely on the spell checker and grammar checker in your word processing program. The spell checker frequently catches misspelled words, but it does not catch them all. Grammar checkers catch even fewer mistakes, and they often identify something as wrong when it is not.
- Print out a hard copy of the document you are proofreading. It's difficult to proofread from a computer screen. A hard copy is easier on the eyes, and you will have more success if your eyes are not blurry and tired.
- Familiarize yourself with common proofreading symbols and abbreviations. Using them when you proofread will make the process more efficient.
- Read the piece out loud, slowly, one word at a time. When you read silently, you are likely to read what you think is on the page, not what is actually on the page. When you read out loud, you increase your chances of reading what is actually on the page.
- Have someone else read the piece out loud to you. This is even a better way to catch mistakes. If you've written the piece, you may read what you meant to write instead of what you actually did write. Another person who is unfamiliar with your words will read exactly what is on the page.
- One method that many people find effective is to proofread several times, each time focusing on one type of error. They proofread once for grammar, once for punctuation and once for spelling.
- When proofreading for grammar, one helpful technique is to separate each sentence. To do this, save your document on your word processor under a new title using the "save as" function. Go through the document and hit the "enter" key after each sentence. Print the document out and check it slowly and carefully for grammar mistakes. Separating the sentences forces you to go more slowly and helps you to focus on the grammar, not the content.
- When proofreading for punctuation, one helpful technique is to circle each punctuation mark first. Then go back and look at each one to make sure it is correct.
- When proofreading for spelling, read the text backwards. Since what you are reading will make no sense, you can focus on spelling and not on content or grammar.
- If the paper you are proofreading is very important, once you've finished proofreading it yourself, give it to someone who has good proofreading skills to look over for you. A second set of eyes is always a good idea.