Thursday, August 2, 2007

Simple Steps to Proofreading Better

While flipping through the headlines in my bloglines reader, I found one that really caught me eye: "The Importance of Proofreading." Since the fall semester begins is a mere few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about my writing courses, so this blogline is quite apt. One of the most difficult aspects of teaching writing is to help students see the need to proof their work. The problem is that most put their faith, entirely, in spellcheck/grammarcheck. Of course, there are numerous problems with doing that, but most writers don't take the time to proofread because they assume these programs will accomplish the task -- not so.

Proofreading is actually quite easy, and no, you don't have to be a grammar expert to proofread well.

  1. Look for confusion. Does that not sound right? Good. That is an easy way to proofread your own work. Look for sentences that don't sound right. Maybe you left a word out, or perhaps the language is jumbled, or maybe your mind worked faster than you could type, and you can't figure out what you were trying to say. Any area that sounds strange probably has some type of error in the sentence and should be revised.
  2. Take your time when you proofread. Rushing through the draft will not allow you to really see your writing. Instead, you will see what you want to see (or how you envision the writing in your mind) and miss what is actually on the page.
  3. Take a step back. Put some distance between yourself and your writing. Allow a few hours to pass before you go back to proofread what you've written. If you proof immediately, the writing is too fresh, it is still in your mind, and you will actually correct any problem areas in your mind without even knowing they are there.
  4. Find a friend. Don't trust yourself to be your best proofreader. Find someone who you trust to read over your work and point out any area that is confusing or just doesn't seem right. This person immediately has distance from the piece that you don't have and may notice aspects of the writing that you never would.
The ultimate key is to pay attention to what you read, and read the work as though you did not write it. Don't be afraid to change what you wrote! Nobody ever gets it right the first time they get the idea down in writing. Proofreading will allow you to clarify what you mean, and it will allow your reader to more easily connect with the message that you want to get across.

And lastly, proofreading and revising are not the same thing.

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1 comment:

Tony said...

Doc - These are all great points; I use these every day in my professional life. My writing technique is basically, I write what's in my head. So if something doesn't sound right, it's not going to look right. By the way, your next post should be about usage of the semi-colon.