As the Director of Content for a company servicing the water extraction and damage restoration industry, I have to knock out a lot of written material on a daily basis. Set up in my little corner of the shop, I get inspired, research, write, edit, and proofread everything before sending it out the door to wherever it is going to be published, posted, distributed, etc. I am a one stop shop.
One of the hardest things for any writer to do is proofread their own work. It is truly amazing just how many goofs get out the door as a result. Unfortunately, many of us don’t always have the luxury of another pair of eyes to help us out, so we have to double our efforts at making sure the product is solid.
So how do you proofread your own work and not let mistakes slip by? Listen, children…..
Go line by line. Ideally, cover the entire page except for the line you are reading. It prevents distractions. Otherwise you might just skim right over the top. You’ll be surprised at how many more errors you catch this way.
Third time’s the charm. Read your paper several times. Put it down and read it again the next day. I have caught mistakes on the third or fourth time through that completely escaped my notice initially.
If you find an error and correct it, re-read the sentence again. Sometimes the act of correcting an error can be the basis for an entirely new problem, either in construction, syntax, or flow.
Read the document backwards. Isolating sentences, removing them from being a part of the whole, allows you to better concentrate on that one sentence and hopefully catch anything that might be questionable.
Read the work out loud. You’ll be surprised at how many goofs you catch this way. This works even better if you have someone who can follow along with the printed copy.
At the risk of stating the obvious, use Spell Check. Be forewarned however, that Spell Check doesn’t always correctly identify incorrect words or punctuation. You still need to know your stuff.
Keep a list of your most common errors (or of the writers you are proofing) and proof for those on separate “trips.”
Be aware of homonyms. Homonyms are words that share the same spelling or pronunciation, but have different meanings. Switching accept with except or complement with compliment could be disastrous, so pay attention to them.
Differentiate between contractions, apostrophes, etc. People often mix their and they’re, its and it’s, your and you’re and so on. If there is something that can hurt the credibility of your text, it is a similar mistake. Also, remember that the apostrophe is never used to form plurals.
Proof your work at the beginning of the day, when your senses are the sharpest. Listen to music or chew gum to keep yourself relaxed during what can be a rather boring process.
Continue your education by refreshing your memory on grammar rules. Take nothing for granted.
So yes, it is possible, if not desirable, to successfully proofread your own work. Take your time. You don’t want to let your masterpiece go out in any form that is less than flattering.
If you do find a mistake, however, don’t spend a lot of time fretting about it. After all, nobody’s perfekt.