Author and newspaper reporter Mark Twain made some memorable observations about proofreading. For a start, he recognized that it was never absolutely certain that a proof-reader was able to spot every mistake in a given piece of text. He commented that the reader often saw what their mind wanted him or her to see rather than what the actual text conveyed. Twain was himself very critical of poorly proofread material. An often quoted comment of his was that “god made idiots first just for practice, then he made proofreaders.” Despite these uncertainties, proofreading is an immensely important skill and is vital, for instance, when checking translations. Find great tips for proofreaders anywhere that may help to improve their skills.
1. Proof read the text several times. This may sound obvious, if time consuming, but it can be done most effectively if you look at a different aspect of the text each time. For example, concentrate on spelling the first time around, punctuation the next time, followed by sentence structure and word choice.
2. Have a rest. Especially if you have a lot of text to proofread, having fresh eyes, or at least a fresh mind, will improve your accuracy. Even if you just put the text aside for an hour or two (preferably longer) you will probably spot mistakes which you might have not discovered otherwise.
3. Read out the text aloud. By reading out the text aloud, preferably to another helper, you will be forced to read the text more accurately. When you stumble with your speech, there is more likely to be an error in the text, which you may not have spotted if you had been silently reading. A variation on this is to listen to the text read out by someone else.
4. Print the text onto a hard copy version. Hard copy text is often easier to read than that displayed on a monitor. When you scroll down a word document or another format that contains text, it is easy to miss whole lines that could have contained errors. The hard copy version is easy to annotate as well. This is particularly important if you are providing a proofreading service for a client and are unsure of the meaning or there is an ambiguity in what has been written.
5. Read your text back to front. This may seem unnecessarily complicated, but it is a proofreading service technique which can often catch out individual word errors which may have been missed if the lines had been reading the right way round. Remember Mark Twain’s thoughts about the reader’s mind seeing what it wants to see!
6. Use a combination of your spellchecker and a dictionary. While spell checkers are quick and easy ways of proofreading a document, they are certainly not foolproof! They only check whether a word is really a word and cannot distinguish between two words that sound the same, but are actually spelled differently. Your dictionary is used when there is doubt over an individual word’s meaning.