Whether you are writing for a magazine, an essay, e-mail, or your blog, it is essential to keep your text free of mistakes, as a text full of mistakes may not be able to convey the ideas you really want to. Moreover, a few misplacement of words or punctuation can change the entire meaning of the document, sending across a wrong message to the reader. Now, many writers swear by and rely on software to accomplish the proofreading work. It is important to understand that the proofreading instructions are fed in the machine and the machine will correct mistakes mechanically without understanding the context. Hence, it is likely that it can provide erroneous results. Therefore, when it comes to proofreading and editing, it is better to read the document yourself, understand the context and make changes likewise. If you are not sure how to go about proofreading content, this Penlighten article provides you with essential proofreading tips. Make a list of the tips below and pin it over at your desk at work, or in your study area as a checklist.
- Give the story a quick read to check the content without making any editing changes. This counts as the first reading, where you only check if you have accommodated all that you wanted to, and in the right context of course. While you do so keep away all the distractions (like cell phones, music system, TV and so on), it will help you concentrate better and thereby spot mistakes easily.
- Are the sentences too long, too short, or just right? Now, remember people do not like lengthy articles. While proofreading if you come across long sentences wherein you can actually chop of unnecessary words, do it! Try to frame shorter sentences wherever possible, instead of beating around the bush.
- Did you run the spell check...whether you follow the US English or British English, whatever the case may be, keep the same flow in the entire article. Incorrect spellings are the most common mistakes found in most of the documents. Therefore, be careful.
For example - Color is spelled without "u" in the US English, whereas in British English it is spelled as "colour."
- Does the story have a good taste?... while you're proofreading you will come across sentences that can be easily reconstructed giving your text a good taste. Meaning, making it more interesting or keeping the reader glued to your content. Here, you are expected to address the style of writing. Read the document as a reader and ask yourself whether it is keeping you interested. If not, make efforts to change things accordingly.
- Is the message put across properly? Whenever you write any document or article, there is a purpose for doing so. Make sure the message is highlighted, in a way that is easy for the reader to grasp.
- Intelligent subbing... There are two types of subbing, one is the mechanical subbing and the other is called intelligent subbing. Mechanical subbing involves capitalizing proper nouns, mending grammatical errors and so on. Whereas, intelligent subbing includes reading the content, understanding the subject and editing sentences. This is the kind of reading you are expected to do while you proofread your written piece.
- Check the language, grammar and punctuation. A comma or a full stop can change the entire meaning of the sentence. Hence, make sure you have used the correct punctuation. If you are writing in the present tense, maintain the tense and check if you have gone off track and correct the same.
For example - "Woman, without her man, is nothing" and "Woman! Without her, man is nothing". Do you see, change in punctuation can change the entire meaning of the sentence.
- Watch for double meaning... This is something you must avoid. Sometimes, while writing we tend to swim in the flow of our words, and don't even realize that a particular sentence could be perceived in another way. Eliminate double meaning sentences while you proofread your articles.
For example - I remember reading a book "To Serve Man", it has a double meaning; it can either mean "to serve humanity" or "to serve a human, as in food or something." since, it was a cookbook, we'll buy the second meaning. But, not necessary everybody will perceive it in the same way as you do.
- Avoid tautology and do not mix homonyms. Most of the time we come across sentences constructed with the use of unnecessary words. Avoid redundancy of words, also words that share the same spelling or pronunciation but have different meanings.
For example - "The water is boiling hot." The word boiling itself indicates the water is hot, therefore use of the word "hot" is unnecessary. Hence, avoid it.
- Check for double spaces and avoid repetition of words. When you are going through your written content make sure you eliminate double spaces, if any, or repetition of words. Now, it is normal to find the same words written twice consecutively, however it is important to eliminate the same while you proofread, else will be accounted as being careless about your work.
For example - This diet plan also goes out to those who have have conceived and wish to keep away from the problem.
- Capital Letters and Numerals. While you proofread make sure you use a capital letter for every proper noun, name of films, or books. If you are to mention a certain word in another language, do not forget to use the italic option.
For example - Incorrect: Golden gate bridge. Correct: Golden Gate Bridge.
- Check that the references and quotes are given due credit. When you are using quotes, make sure you give due credit. Moreover, if your content contains references or comments made by well-known personalities, see to it that you put them in quotes, or use a different font than the usual to highlight the same.