Proofreading Basics: 5 Easy Steps to Proofreading Success


Now that your paper or novel is complete, you want to make sure it’s as perfect as possible before submitting it to a publisher. Obviously, the first step toward that goal is to proofread your work.

“Huh? My word processing program includes a spell-checker, and it even checks grammar, too—why should I proofread my document?”

Elementary, my dear Watson: spell/grammar checkers don’t always catch all the typos your work may contain.  To prevent panic at the notion of proofreading, read the following tips to help you throughout the process.

5 Easy Steps

  1. Use your word processing program’s spell/grammar check for basic proofreading. It’s a good place to start and usually catches the most egregious errors.
  2. Don’t blindly accept all the suggestions that spell/grammar check recommends.
  3. Read through your work slowly and carefully; you’ll be surprised at the number of errors a human proofreader will catch. Mistakes that the spell/grammar check program can miss.
  4. If you have the time, now read your document from end to beginning as part of the proofreading process, a paragraph at a time. Why? Because reading your work backward focuses your attention on the spelling and grammar. When you read from start to finish, it’s just human nature to fill in missing words unconsciously. You may see the correct spelling, even when words are missing or spelling is incorrect.
  5. Have a friend or family member proof your document. Is it a subject they know little or nothing about? Even better. Their focus will be on grammar and spelling, since they can’t help you with content!

If all this still sounds too daunting, why not just save yourself the frustration (and possibly your friendships and family relationships, as well)? Hire a professional editor from a firm like FirstEditing to not only proofread but also edit your work.

Originally posted 5/22/2009 and happily updated 11/14/2017. Thanks for reading!

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