By Laurie Bonner
Can yuu raed htis?
You probably can—because your brain is really good at autocorrecting. But that can be a problem when you’re trying to ferret out errors in copy. When you’re reading, you often infer the complete word you expect to see, not the letters that are actually on the page.
It’s even harder when you’re trying to find errors in your own writing. You already know what you want it to say, and so that’s exactly what you see, regardless of what’s really there.
To proofread your own copy effectively, you need to train yourself to stop reading for meaning and instead look at the actual letters and words that are on the page. It’s harder than it sounds.
Here are some proven methods to help you find errors:
- Sound it out. When you’re a child learning to read, you painstakingly work through every letter in each word. When you’re proofreading, you need to go back to that method to slow yourself down and really look at every word. Try reading with a robotic voice in your head. This approach can be difficult to maintain with longer reports, however. It’s too easy to slip back into your normal reading style and start skipping over the errors.
- Read it out loud. This can be another way to force yourself to focus on each word. But this approach may be frowned on unless you have a quiet place where you won’t be disturbing anyone else.
- Let it rest. Sometimes letting your work sit untouched for a day or two gives you the chance to come back to it with fresher eyes. Of course, deadline pressures may not allow you this luxury of time.
- Change it up. Try changing your document’s font color or font type. Simple steps like this can be enough to trick yourself into thinking you’re reading something new. Of course, you’ll need to be able to change the font back when you’re done—especially for larger reports with multiple fonts, it might be best to make a separate copy just for proofreading. Just remember to make all your changes in the live document, too.
- Read it backward. This technique also forces you to look at each word individually and can help you catch typos. But it can be tedious for longer reports, and it may not help you find other types of mistakes, such as missing words or errors in subject-verb agreement.
- Let someone else read it. Someone who has not seen your work is more likely to approach it with a fresh perspective and may be better able to spot errors and omissions. You’d need a colleague who has both the time to read your work and the skills to find all your grammar and spelling errors.
Your best option might be to hire a professional proofreader—someone who knows spelling and grammar inside and out, and who has had years of practice at finding and fixing errors.
The professionals at TalentMEDIA Services, a Capitol Communicator sponsor, can help you write it right. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurie Bonner is Editor for TalentMEDIA Services. You can email her at email@example.com.