Posted by: episystechpubs | November 18, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Proofreading Tips

Today’s topic is one I’ve covered before, but hopefully it will serve as a good reminder and provide some helpful suggestions. These are some of the tips and tricks I learned in a copyediting course, along with my comments. For the original list and Mignon Fogarty’s comments, see her webpage: Grammar Girl.

1. Have someone else read your work.
KC – We live by this rule here in Editing. Yes, we miss things now and then, but luckily, not too often. Donna has saved me from embarrassment countless times. (I love you, Donna.)

2. When you’re writing on your computer, use the auto-correct feature.

3. Run your work through your computer’s spell-checking tool.
KC – It doesn’t help if you type “manger” instead of “manager,” or “turkey” instead of “turn-key,” but it can catch some of the errors.

4. Print your work.
KC – If we lived in a world of endless resources I might agree. Yes, it may help you edit, but it will also cost money, and Mother Earth will frown upon you. In most cases, I disagree with this step.

5. Give yourself some time.
KC – Ha ha! Grammar Girl must also live in a world without deadlines or speedy turnarounds. Again, in an ideal world this is fantastic advice: write something, leave it, and then proofread it.

6. Read your work aloud.
KC – As editors, we have to read things out loud on occasion to figure out if they really make sense. You can do this, too. Just remember, use your library voice when you talk to yourself (I mean when you read out loud) in the office.

7. Force yourself to view each word.
KC – Definitely do this. The times when we are speeding along are the times we miss “the the” or “of of” and that sort of typo in our text.

8. Read your work backward, starting with the last sentence and working your way in reverse order to the beginning.
KC – This is one of those things you learn in copyediting class. Then you go to the real world where there’s no time, at least not in the JHA arena. If you have the time when you write, go for it.

9. Separate proofreading tasks.
KC – We do this all of the time, though we have to group several tasks together when we edit. Read your work through, concentrating on the spelling and punctuation. On a second reading, check the grammar and flow. On a third reading, check the formatting or coding (in html or xml). It sounds like a lot of work, but you will be a better writer for it.

10. Print your work in a different font with different margins.
KC – Rather than printing your work, try applying different margins and fonts. By changing the look of your materials, you might see errors that weren’t clear to you before.

This artist, Austin Light, made the best of some movie typos by illustrating them. Click “Oboe Cop” (below) to see some of his other drawings.

Oboe Cop – by Justin Light

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory


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