My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Direct Proofreading

From "Proofreading: Plain & Simple" by Debra Hart May, with my own commentary:
  • "Proofreading quickly and well is virtually impossible. To proofread most effectively, read slowly and deliberately."
    • Concentrate on the writing. Look at each individual word and punctuation mark. Zoom in on the details instead of trying to see the big picture so you can catch any misspellings or issues with grammar.
  • "Catching everything requires proofreading in several stages, typically focusing on particular aspects of the writing at each stage."
    • On the first read-through, try to find your spelling mistakes. In the next round, make grammar your focus. On the third reading, check your punctuation. By only doing one area at a time, you can keep your brain in one gear instead of switching between concerns. This will prevent you from accidentally skipping over a spelling mistake because you were focusing on word usage.
  • "Proofreading your own work is difficult because you are likely to see what you meant to write as opposed to what is actually on the paper. Always allow time between editing and proofreading."
    • Reading out loud can help counteract this problem. When you translate the words from the page into sound, your brain is forced to actually read each word instead of skimming over it. If you are embarrassed, try saying the words silently. This method makes you continue to form the words with your mouth, which makes you think over what you are reading, so it functions almost as well.
  • "Proofreading on a paper copy may be inconvenient, but you'll catch more, more quickly, and with less effort. Freelance editor and writer Helen O'Guinn summed up most experts' sentiments: 'I will catch errors on paper that I will never catch on screen.'"
    • When we use a computer, we are more likely to skim over the text to find certain markers. Most computer users have developed the habit of looking for information instead of reading the whole page, which has conditioned the brain to ignore most content in favor of a small selection. To overcome this automatic association, it is a good idea to print the page out. The physical paper in your hand will make it harder to let your mind drift away from your ultimate goal.
  • "Using the computer spell-check feature before you start can help save you a lot [of] time."
    • The computer can be wrong, however. Make sure you review each suggestion instead of approving everything blindly. Question what it gives you and keep a dictionary handy. Also, make sure you go back through the document and check spelling independently of the computer. The computer may not make a distinction between "there" and "their" when they are both spelled correctly, though the usage may be incorrect. In addition, the computer will not catch that you accidentally spelled "see" as "sea."
  • "Using computerized grammar checkers are generally not helpful. Even documents considered well-written by most people, take for instance, The Gettysburg Address, qualify as poorly written if we're to trust the judgment of most grammar-checking software currently available."
    • This is another one where you have to have your reference material handy. Technology still cannot reliably take the place of a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, and your own knowledge. If you follow the above tips, you should be able to catch your own mistakes and intelligently evaluate any suggestions that a grammar checker offers up.

1 comment:

  1. I can see it's going to be a lot easier editing in the stages you suggest instead of trying to do everything at once. When I am editing I like to print the corrected pages off and sit in a quiet corner to read over them. I could never just work from a computer screen.
    Many thanks for the tips!