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Top Ten Tips for Proofreading Your Own Work

proof readingProofreading is an absolutely essential part of creating a written piece of work, whatever that may be. Mistakes and typos look unprofessional, fail to convey the meaning you intend and cost you time, money and embarrassment! If you’ve ever posted a letter or sent an email and then found mistakes when you’ve reread it, you’ll understand how frustrating it can be when it’s too late to fix the errors!

Often, it’s easy to spot mistakes in other people’s writing, yet more difficult to see them in your own. This is because we ‘know’ what we are trying to say, so our brains tend to overlook the fact that the words on the paper aren’t quite matching up to our intentions.

The good news is that effective proofreading is a skill that can be learned and, with practice, mastered. The more often you proofread, the more adept your eyes and brain become at spotting mistakes. With enough practice, you’ll be spotting mistakes everywhere you look!

So, let’s have a look at the top ten tips for proofreading your own work. Work through this checklist in order every time you write and it will soon become second nature.

1. Print Out Your Work for Proofreading

It’s far easier to spot mistakes on a print out. Something about reading on a computer screen seems to lower our abilities to weed out problems. You also see your paragraph length and sentence structure more clearly.

2. Read Out Loud

Take your time and read your writing out loud. This helps you identify any areas that don’t work or read awkwardly. It enables you to hear what your writing will sound like to your audience.

3. Don’t Rely on Spell Check

Although spelling and grammar checking software is handy in some respects, never rely on it entirely. It doesn’t pick out words that are misused and doesn’t give you an idea of the rhythm and voice of your work. Don’t be worried about using a dictionary โ€“ if you’re unsure of a spelling or your use of the word, check it out. Remember to make a note of any words you’ve misspelled and keep it handy so you can check quickly next time you use that same word. We’ll be looking at common grammatical mistakes in another article.

4. Watch Your Sentence Length

An extremely common mistake made by many writers is creating sentences that are way too long! Short, punchy sentences have more impact and hold your readers’ attention. Also, watch your use of commas. Often a full-stop is more appropriate instead of stringing a sentence onto another with a comma. You should aim to keep your sentences to under 25 words.

5. Eliminate Jargon

Be sure that any jargon you use will be clearly understood by your audience. Acronyms and industry specific terms can be misinterpreted and cause frustration.

6. Be Plain and Simple

You should always write for your audience but, in general, your writing should be in plain and simple English. When you proofread, watch out for any words that could be simplified or shortened.

7. Check Sentence/Paragraph Structure

Check that you don’t start too many sentences with the same wording. Check you’ve mixed up short and long sentences as this helps with the rhythm of your writing. On your printout, you can see the length of your paragraphs. Overly long paragraphs can be off-putting to your reader. Are there any that can be broken down further?

8. Check Changes

When you make any changes, be sure to reread the entire section. Mistakes are often made when making changes. Reread the affected sentence and paragraph out loud to make sure it still reads well and conveys what you need to say.

9. Get a Colleague to Read Out Loud

Having a friend or colleague read your work out loud is extremely useful. As they are not aware of your intended message, they are reading ‘cold’, so to speak. If they stumble or get mixed up โ€“ it’s time to rewrite that section.

10. Note Your Mistakes

Always note down the mistakes you find. Many people tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly. Having a list of your writing errors will help you spot them in the future!

Take a look at Illumine’s Professional Business Writing Course here

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