Quick proofreading tips to slash those typos

Although I and various other professional writers and editors have written about proofreading here on HTWB in the past, unfortunately it’s a problem that just won’t go away.

proofreading on HTWB

How to proofread more easily and effectively…

Here, then, is a swift recap on some of the useful tips we know that can make a huge difference to the quality of whatever you write, whether it’s for your business, job, social or creative writing.

Proofread your writing backwards

A long time ago a colleague of mine, copywriter Nick Usborne who is based in Montréal, taught me to proofread my work backwards. Silly though that may sound, it works.

I think the reason why it works is because when you read forwards, you get involved in the content of each sentence and tend to assume the words are right.

The other day someone reminded me of this “joke…”

“Research findings from an English University: Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.”

This adds an extra dimension of value to Nick’s advice, doesn’t it! If you try to read the above paragraph backwards, one word at a time, you probably won’t even be able to understand some of the mis-spelled words.

More quick proofreading tips from writing experts

Print it out. OK, this would seem like something of a waste of trees, not to mention an expensive half-ream of paper if you’re talking a long book manuscript. However invariably you will spot typos and other goofs in the printed version of a document that you may well miss when reading it from a screen. This is probably because you have changed the “environment” of your words, so your eyes and brain will focus more sharply on the content as it’s “new.”

Change the font. Using the same principle of “newness” as mentioned above, switching your document to a different (but not fancy) font will refresh your focus on the words. It’s not as effective as printing it out but it’s a quicker, cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative.

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For more help with grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and more, click right here on HTWB.

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Leave it overnight. From an editing point of view I always recommend that no matter how wonderful you think your writing is, especially when you’ve done it late at night, leave it and have another look in the morning. The fact of having done different things and forgotten about it, even for an hour or so if you’re pushed for time, allows you to go back with a fresh pair of eyes and make improvements. The same, then, applies to proofreading.

Don’t trust spelling and grammar checkers. These systems are helpful if your writing is fairly bad, but never forget that they’re essentially machines. I know machines are getting more intuitive by the day but they still aren’t human yet. After the checkers have finished, go back and see what they have missed…

Don’t forget to proofread any changes you’ve made. You’d be surprised how easy it is to proofread something until it’s perfect, then spot a way to make a sentence stronger, change it, and forget to proofread the new words for typos.

Double check the big stuff. If I had a dollar for every mis-spelled headline or title I’ve seen in my career I would have enough to pay for a long vacation somewhere exotic. It’s a classic mistake that even the professionals make: you assume the big words and phrases are correct because you have spent a lot of time on them previously. You then sweat over proofreading the main text and forget to check the bigger stuff. Also beware of missing typos and goofs in taglines, sub-headings and image captions.

What tips do you have for better proofreading?

Please share them with us!

 

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