Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process. No matter what type of content you’re creating—whether an article, a book, a press release, or even an e-mail—you can benefit by using proofreading to help you keep from confusing your readers or making embarrassing errors.
When proofreading, keep an eye out for typographical errors, or typos—mistakes made while typing your work. Read slowly, seeing each word individually instead of quickly moving through the sentences. Remember that words in which one or two letters are swapped might look correct if you’re reading quickly. Also, look for sentences, incomplete or otherwise, that might confuse readers.
Computer spell-checkers can catch many obvious typos, but they won’t highlight words that you’ve spelled correctly but that you haven’t used correctly. When rereading your work, use a dictionary to look up words that look strange in context. Also, watch for incorrect use of homophones such as its/it’s, your/you’re, and their/they’re/there. You’ll want to check your capitalization, too. Some professional proofreaders will even read a work backward, from the last word on a page to the first, to avoid getting swept up in the meaning and losing focus on errors.
You’ll need to slowly reread your work if you want to catch grammatical mistakes. Computerized grammar-checkers won’t catch every grammar error, so you’ll need to look for run-on sentences and break them into two sentences while also confirming such grammar basics as noun and pronoun agreement, parallel structure, and punctuation. As you go, watch for overuse of the passive voice, changing it to the active voice to help readers stay in the action.
When proofreading for inconsistencies, be sure that things such as proper names are used the same way throughout. Also proofread for grammatical person consistency—making sure your writing doesn’t switch between second person and third person, for example. You’ll also want to look for look for contradictory statements, whether implicit or explicit. Be sure, too, that you’ve kept fonts and type sizes consistent throughout your work, and watch for missing or extra spaces between words. You’ll also need to check headers, footers, and page numbers. But before your final read-through, consider taking a break. Getting away from your writing can help clear your mind so that you don’t miss as many errors later.