Why is proofreading important?
It can help you catch errors that prevent clear communication with your readers.
If you are having a conversation with someone, and they don’t understand what you have said, the listener can ask for clarification.
My husband tells of an experience of his final day in Germany after attending a family wedding there. He was left with a few people who didn’t speak English well, and hubby’s German skills weren’t very advanced. The two sides were able to keep a conversation going by each speaking in his own language, using simpler words, and speaking at a relaxed pace. When either side didn’t quite understand what the other had said, it was easy to ask for a rewording of the unclear phrase.
But when a reader stumbles over an errant word or issue, that person can’t talk back to the page to ask what was intended. (Okay, you can talk back, but I hope you aren’t expecting an answer.) So the reader might simply quit. There have been a few published books that I have started reading that I wasn’t able to complete because I got tired of seeing a typo or usage issue on each page.
Why am I sharing these tips?
Am I purposely trying to reduce my income (kill my business?)?
No. I want you to be satisfied that you are getting your money’s worth.
If there are a few things you can do before handing your document over to me to save yourself some money, then I think you can be happier with my invoice when the document gets returned to you.
These tips have been around for a while. Many of them are well known.
Read what you have written backward. Doing it this way helps little errors to jump out at you.
- Missing articles (the, an)
- Wrong word (their/there, you/your)
- Duplicate word (especially at line breaks)
Make a copy of the document in a different font style or size.
This shifts the words around on the page. If you have been reading over your writing, you can get used to skimming over the same error. I had a project once when I had the opportunity to edit a short book and then do a proofread of it after the designer had laid it out. I caught about three more (minor) errors (missing closing quotation marks, missing period at the end of one item in a bulleted list) just seeing the characters in a new way.
Give yourself some time after writing before going back to proofread.
After a while, your brain won’t fill in the missing items as easily.
Read the document. Out loud. Slowly.
Taking the time to read each word helps you discover missing words or phrases that you thought you actually typed or helps you see how you started a sentence with one format and finished in another.
Check for overuse of your common words or phrases.
If your computer program has the ability to find and highlight all uses of a word or phrase, try running that. You might be surprised just how often that phrase shows up. Maybe it is (or should become) part of your marketing. But maybe it’s from lack of creativity; try using a thesaurus.