Proofreading your own work is one of the hardest jobs you have. You know what it is supposed to say, so that’s what your brain reads. If you are trying to proofread your own work, here are some tips:
- Take a break or just walk away for a few minutes. Refocusing your brain could make a difference in reading what the document actually says.
- Print it out and read it in hard copy. Sometimes looking at something in a different way can help you actually see any errors. If you’ve been reading it on the computer, print it out and read the hard copy. If you’ve been reading it on paper, read it on the computer.
- If it is something really important and you’re worried that you’ll miss something, ask someone else to read it for you.
- Read it out loud. Sometimes hearing the words are easier than reading them.
- Go to a quiet area if possible. Close your door, go into an empty office, or if possible, go downstairs in the fresh air. It is important to get away from emails, visitors, phone calls, and other interruptions.
- Read it in parts and scramble them up. Read the first paragraph, then the third, then the fifth, etc. until the end of the document, then go up and read the second, then the fourth, etc. This will definitely not help you proof for consistency in the document, but it will help you find words that are wrong or misspelled.
- Read for consistency. If terms have been defined and capitalized, make sure they are capitalized throughout using the appropriate defined term.
Most of all, keep learning. One good way is to read everything—newspapers, books, magazines. While there are lots of errors in those publications, there are also lots of good grammar usage. Another way is find websites and blogs that teach grammar and proofreading. Here are some of my recommendations—Proofreading Resources.
You should definitely proofread your work before you pass it on to the next person. Their job may well be to edit your work, but that doesn’t mean that their job is to clean it all up. You will impress them as a writer if they don’t have to correct obvious mistakes in your work. Take the time to prove that you are a good writer and know what you’re doing.
If you have tips for proofreading your own work, please share them in the comments below.
It’s time for our new feature called “Confusing Words of the Week” where I take a set of two or three words that get confused and give you definitions and try to give you a memory trick to help you remember when to use which word. If you have words that confuse you, use Ask PTB or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they may appear here soon!
This week’s words:
peak – the top. The peak of the mountain was covered with clouds.
peek – to look slyly at. He tried to peek at the cute girl in the corner. Just think about the double “e” as eyes. You’re looking at something with those eyes.
pique – resentment; to offend; to arouse. Jane piqued Sally’s interest in the movie coming out this week by telling her the back story.
piqué – cotton fabric.
I saw this one in a Facebook ad. “Steak” is food and “stake” is a rod in the ground to support something.
My sister took this picture in the window of a WalMart hair salon. She wonders if they are already hiring for Christmas? She also thinks that a dollar sign wouldn’t be amiss.
I’m going to start a new feature called “Confusing Words of the Week” where I take a set of two or three words that get confused and give you definitions and try to give you a memory trick to help you remember when to use which word. If you have words that confuse you, let me know and they may appear here soon!
This week’s confusing words are accept and except:
accept is to take or receive. He was ready to accept his new job duties. (He was ready to receive his new job duties.)
except is to exclude. He was ready for the new job duties except typing daily reports. (He was ready for all of his job duties excluding typing daily reports.)
The easiest way to remember which one to use is the EXcept is to EXclude. So if you want to EXclude something, you would say EXcept as in the following example:
I like all flavors of Life Savers EXCEPT lime.
That means if you take all of the flavors of Life Savers and exclude the lime ones, those are what I like.
If you are not going to EXclude something, you will accept it.
I found this on Twitter recently. It should be “has drawn” or just “drew.”
My trusty news station comes through again. Tires/tries . . . unfortunately they don’t mean the same thing even though they share letters IN A DIFFERENT ORDER! Spell check won’t help here.
When people edit a hard copy of a document (and, yes, some people still do that), there are certain proofreading marks that have been used throughout time. There is a great resource for these marks that I found online at http://www.marquette.edu/omc/documents/proofreaders.pdf. It includes not only the symbol, but what the corrected language would look like. I’ve added a link to this document on the Files page for printing it out and keeping it at your desk.
A few comments:
- The word “stet” is one that I didn’t know when I started in the legal field and I have had others ask me about. It basically means “I marked that out by accident so please leave it the way it was.” Make sure to look for that before you spend time making edits that are unnecessary.
- Ellipsis should have spaces between the periods according to The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th ed., ¶ 291. The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with Gregg on this one, but the AP Stylebook does not. Microsoft prefers the three periods with no spacing. The most important thing is to choose a style and be consistent. I’ve addressed this issue before at http://proofthatblog.com/2012/11/05/ellipsis-marks-spaced-or-not-that-is-the-question/.
- If the author doesn’t use these proofreading marks on a hard copy of their document, they will edit it online and you will still be expected to proofread it and make the necessary edits. You should do that in redline so the author can see your suggested edits. Just making edits could change the meaning of the sentence (or a whole document), so you need to have the author approve the changes. I briefly addressed this at http://proofthatblog.com/2012/11/18/time-for-a-quickie/.
- It is nice that there is a chart with the “standard” proofreading marks, but some authors develop their own marks. If you really don’t know what they’re trying to do, ASK. Then keep track of those marks so that someone you may have helping you will have a cheat sheet with the authors special marks defined.
Learning the proofreading marks is helpful so you can make the author’s edits appropriately and so that you can use them correctly when you are the author editing your work. What is the most creative proofreading mark you’ve seen?
My cousin sent me this one. At least they were consistent, but it is a “Silver Alert.”