After overcoming the many trials and errors, writer’s block, and stress that goes into writing, it can be easy to overlook one of the most important final steps: proofreading. Proofreading is essential to any good piece of writing, so here are some tips for how to get the most out of your editing process!
1. Step away from your work immediately after you are finished writing. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own work and attached to the sentences we craft that it can be hard to look at each word individually for any errors or syntax issues. I often find when I proofread directly after writing a piece I gloss over words because I already know what is coming next. Stepping away from my writing and leaving time before I proofread helps me forget the flow of the sentences, so I read the piece as if it is new and I can notice more errors.
2. Read your piece aloud. Somehow, the writing we read aloud and the writing we read in our heads are two different works. Reading your writing out loud forces you to hear any awkward phrasing and detect wordy sentences. If you tire of reading any sentences or have trouble saying the words, it is a good indicator to fix them. You can also take this a step further by reading the piece aloud to someone else so they can tell you what doesn’t sound right.
3. Have someone else read your work out loud to you. This is often the method of many writing centers because it is the most open and vulnerable way to explore your writing. I always feel embarrassed when someone reads my writing back to me, but it is a good way to get more comfortable with your voice and really hear what your writing is saying.
4. Have someone else read your writing (or multiple people!). A second set of eyes is one of the best proofreading strategies - it’s why writers have editors, after all. It doesn’t really matter who you get to read your writing, just as long as you listen to any questions they have about certain sentences and any issues they encounter while reading. If the person reading your work is confused about anything you write, have them ask you about it; this will make you explain something possibly in better terms than you were able to write initially.
5. Break it down word by word. One of the greatest editing sessions I ever had was with a professor who read my work word for word. Looking at each word individually helps build a clearer overall picture. This method is meticulous, and therefore forces you to remember all the tiny grammar rules. Reading a piece word for word allows you to examine aspects like antecedents, prepositions, and comma rules because you must look at whether a particular word’s placement makes sense.
6. ALWAYS check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. While proofreading is important for making sure you've created the best sentences in terms of their sound, flow, and clarity, they cannot shine if they are riddled with errors. Pay attention to the little rules and do not rely solely on automatic grammar and spell check. While this is a useful tool, it often only looks at the words themselves instead of the context of the sentence. Make sure spell check does not change the meaning of your sentences!