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Thursday, May 19, 2011

10 Actions You Can Take to Improve Your Proofreading

Today I'm pleased to bring you another guest post from writer, proofreader and entrepreneur Randall Davidson.

Randall has ten top tips for writers on how they can improve their proofreading skills to create better, more professional-looking documents.

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Correct and efficient proofreading is one of the most crucial elements in producing quality advertisements, business documents and academic papers. Misspellings, poor grammar and/or improper word usage can create a negative impression that may overshadow your desired message. Additionally, these mistakes can reflect poorly on the individual or company responsible for the errors. Here are ten proofreading tips that can produce more professional results.

  1. Divide and conquer. By looking at the document in sections, proofreaders can often catch mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed when reading a longer paper. Smaller sections can reduce fatigue and allow the proofreader to process the material more effectively while minimizing the chance that an error will be overlooked.
  2. Slow down. Many proofreading errors occur due to haste during the process. No list of proofreading tips would be complete without a recommendation to slow down and read carefully as you proofread.
  3. Sound it out. Reading the document out loud is one of the most beneficial proofreading tips and can help to identify mistakes in word usage and grammar that may not be apparent in the printed form. Additionally, any repeated or missing words are easily identified when the document is read aloud.
  4. Understand the limits. Spell check software can be useful for simple tasks but falls far short of the standards necessary for most business and academic documents. When reputations are on the line, there is no substitute for a deliberate and methodical proofreading process.
  5. Adopt a style. A number of excellent style manuals are available to provide standards and consistency for documents. The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook are two of the best known, but any professional style manual can provide a uniform basis for proofreading purposes.
  6. Punctuate properly. Overuse of commas and the misuse of colons and semicolons can ruin the professional appearance of any document. Brush up on punctuation rules and apply them consistently for quality proofreading results.
  7. Break it up. Excessively long sentences and paragraphs should be broken into smaller segments for greater clarity. Proofreaders should ensure that splitting run-on sentences or paragraphs does not alter the meaning of the passage.
  8. Form follows function. Be sure that the document's voice is appropriate for the subject matter covered in that document. For example, academic papers should be written in an academic voice rather than a journalistic or informal style. Proofreaders can note significant variations in style for editorial correction.
  9. Summon backup. In many cases, employing multiple proofreaders for the same document can produce better results. Different proofreaders have different strengths and weaknesses, allowing a group of them to spot errors more accurately and comprehensively.
  10. Call in the pros. Professional proofreaders are trained in the elements of style, grammar and spelling that most often present difficulties in commercial and academic documents. As a result, they can produce more accurate and error-free documents.

By carefully integrating these proofreading tips into the proofreading process, companies and individuals can produce higher quality documents. The importance of deliberate, thorough proofreading cannot be overstated in creating a positive impression and delivering your desired message effectively.

Byline: Randall Davidson is a co-founder of ProofreadingServices.Us, an innovative proofreading services company based out of San Francisco, CA. Randall is committed to helping academics, professionals and small business owners operate more efficiently and achieve greater success. He demonstrates this dedication through the informative articles he writes for the ProofreadingServices.Us blog and as a guest blogger, as well as through the high quality professional proofreading services that his company provides.

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Thank you to Randall for another informative article. If you have any comments or questions about proofreading, as ever, please do post them below.

Photo credit: Richard Riley on Flickr.

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Anonymous Suzanne Pitner said...

Excellent tips. A couple more things I do is use the search feature to find punctuation and spelling errors. You can monitor the use of commas, semicolons, and exclamation points this way. You can also ensure there is only one space between sentences using the search function. I search for homophones, then check the usage. Reading out loud should catch this, but sometimes it gets overlooked.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Larissa said...

Great post. I have to say that I follow most of your rules without thinking about it. The only one that I hate is reading out loud since most of my editing is done in the morning and my voice cracks when I'm not fully awake (not to mention the funky breath, bah!). So reading out loud is annoying at best.

But once again, great tips for a editing! I'm glad that I'm following most of the advice, lol.

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article and excellent tips. I always find reading from a hard copy and not a computer screen helps too. @Larissa I have found a software package called Text Aloud quite useful. It reads documents aloud for you so you can listen instead of having to actually read aloud. Might be worth a look

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Derek said...

As a proofreader I always find ways to improve my skills. Thank you for this article, it enriches me.

9:34 AM  
Blogger moon akondo said...


8:31 AM  

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