That’s every writer’s goal. You finally completed your article (press release, newsletter, white paper, etc.).
You can’t fully enjoy your victory margarita until you proofread the document.
A smart writer knows that proofreading for errors makes the critical difference between a reader viewing you as incompetent or professional.
If you feel that proofreading is boring and tedious, you’ll likely perform a sloppy job and fail to correct reputation-crushing mistakes.
Here are seven proofreading methods that help produce error-free writing.
1. Write a rough draft. Writing and editing are two different practices. Don’t stifle your thoughts as you write by editing concurrently. Let your ideas flow freely, even if you make a lot of grammar, syntax, and spelling errors. Mistakes can be corrected. First, communicate your message -- the insight that shapes your document.
2. Schedule a fake deadline. If you proofread immediately after finishing your first draft, you’ll work twice as hard to spot errors and be less productive. Let the text rest for a bit before you tackle it. Approach proofreading your document as if someone else wrote it; a little simple planning can alleviate the pain of proofreading.
3. Take breaks. Treat the editing process as special as the writing process. If you took breaks while writing different sections of your document, take breaks when you edit, as well. Similarly to scheduling a fake deadline, arrange time to improve your text. Eliminate the pressure of finding mistakes quickly. Proofreaders possess a different skill set than writers; proofreading focuses on clarifying and refining. Correct your writing in the draft stages so that you don’t spot mistakes in the final, published version.
4. Use your vocal chords. Sometimes you just don’t have time to proofread. If you can only manage a quick read-through, make it count. Read the text out loud and slowly enunciate each word. If any phrases or punctuation marks confuse you, they will likely confuse another reader. Revise any weak sections.
5. Delete colloquialisms. Transcribing conversational speech is a side effect of writing a rough draft. Idioms and words that we commonly speak are not always effective when writing. Change “should of” to “should have,” “like” to “such as,” “things” to “items,” etc. Also, avoid ending sentences with prepositions. Remove informalities from your writing for an immediate polish.
6. Shorten descriptions. In other words, get to the point. For example, the phrases, “Stay focused on getting to the point,” and “Get to the point,” share the same meaning. The latter is short-attention-span friendly (which is actually everyone friendly). Choose wisely.
7. Print a copy. You will always find a mistake in a printed draft that you missed on your computer screen. Under strict deadlines, proofread a printed copy to quickly improve your writing. Mark errors with a pen and then correct the electronic version.
Learn more about crafting flawless documents in my new free report, Business Proofreading Tips Other Proofreaders Don’t Want You to Know.
Stefanie Flaxman corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. She’s a writing consultant and the founder of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services. Check out her free report and subscribe to Small Business Writing Consultant Blog to get free business writing advice. Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter!