The main difficulty in proofreading your own text is simple: you have trouble recognizing your own typos, grammar mistakes, and inaccuracies. You know what you want to say; it’s just not always communicated in your writing.
When you act as your own proofreader, you may often overlook mistakes because your eye doesn’t recognize them as mistakes. You may even finish reading a sentence without actually reading the words on the page—the sentence already sounds correct in your mind since you know the meaning it is supposed to convey.
Here are three proofreading practices that will help train your eye to catch more of your own errors.
1. Find Your Proofreader Alter Ego. The Batman to your Bruce Wayne, the Superman to your Clark Kent. You need to look at your text as though you were not the person who wrote it, but someone with a superior eye for detail who does not know what you intended to write.
After you are done with your first draft, take a break from writing and reading. Spend time doing different activities before you edit your text. It’s important to plan a break and go back to your text at a later time, rather than writing and editing in one sitting.
2. Compare and Contrast. Inconsistencies occur in fiction and nonfiction. They make your text look sloppy and are often a matter of style, rather than grammar. What superpowers should your alter ego possess to combat inconsistencies, you may ask? To start: memory.
Make mental notes of specific terms as you review your text. For example, the term “copy editing” is also often spelled “copyediting,” or “copy-editing;” “proofreader” may be written “proof reader.” Is there a character named “Ann” in your novel? Make sure the proper name is not sometimes spelled “Ann,” and other times “Anne.” Are you writing about Walmart? Do you refer to the company as “Walmart,” “WalMart,” and “Wal-Mart?” Pick one style and make sure that you use it consistently.
A similar genre of errors includes typos that are properly spelled words (and therefore not caught when you use spell-check), but are not actually the words that you intend to use. You could type “over” instead of “oven,” “of” instead of “off,” “peer” instead of “pier,” etc. The possibilities are endless. A thorough proofreading will eliminate these flaws.
3. Say What? Read your text out loud, paying attention to each word. It’s equally important to pay attention to punctuation. Your proofreader alter ego also comes in handy here. Enunciate the words and pause for punctuation as someone who has never read the text before. Is it clear?
This technique may identify sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and other abridged or convoluted thoughts. When a sentence is weak, and does not express the proper message, it is usually either incomplete or contains too many ideas for one single sentence.
To dissect your writing, pay attention to the sounds of words joined together to make up a sentence. Do the words flow naturally, or have you read for five minutes without taking a breath? Once you break it down, you’ll spot the areas that need improvement.
If you still need professional proofreading services, I’ve got my proofreader alter ego down. I’m Revision Fairy.