Proofreading is one major issue associated with writers, both blog writers, ghostwriters, songwriters, and other types of writers. Your ability to become a great writer depends on how well you arrange your words and sentences to communicate the right message. As a self-acclaimed writer, do people read your works and frown? Or do they smile and look forward to learning from you? It is one thing to write, and it is another thing to proofread. The beauty of writing somehow lies in proofreading. In this article, we will explain what proofreading is about, proofreading tips, how to be a good proofreader, and how to improve your writing skills in general.
What is Proofreading?
Conceptually, proofreading is simply the review of a final draft before its publication. In other words, it is the final step in the writing process. It involves the identification and correction of errors in sentences, spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and overall writing style. Proofreading ensures a written piece carries the grace and simplicity it deserves. Also, proofreading is a fundamental part of writing. As a writer, you get to revise and ensure that your piece is grammatically perfect while proofreading.
Purpose of Proofreading
The reason for proofreading cannot is glaring as it is an essential part of writing. When you get too familiar with writing, there are chances that you will begin to ignore some errors that will reduce the value of your piece. Irrespective of how well you write, you need to proofread, or better still consult a proofreader to handle the job for you. Meanwhile, you shouldn’t correct your work yourself. This is because you may unconsciously omit glaring errors as you have gotten used to a piece. Going further, we will also consider some things to look out for when proofreading a written piece.
Things to consider when proofreading
- Grammatical errors
- Logical aspect of the content
- Character names
Spelling is the first thing to check because as a writer, you wouldn’t want to publish a piece filled with wrong spellings. At the same time, it is effortless to overlook spelling mistakes. The only way out is to proofread before you publish. Don’t always rely on an app that checks spellings because they disappoint most of the time. To help you out, you can proofread once and give someone else to do the same, that way a fresh eye will see the errors you unconsciously omitted.
Just like spelling mistakes, grammatical errors are very tricky too. It is, sometimes, easy to stumble upon an incorrect grammatical piece when you are both the writer and the proofreader. A grammatical error has to do with placing words wrongly in a sentence. If you must proofread your work, you should give yourself like about 3-5 days off the piece. With that, you can then approach the content like it is your first time. In all, grammatical errors are very tricky to identify, so give yourself a break before you revisit your work.
Identifying punctuations is similar to the kind of stress involved in identifying grammatical errors. Punctuations are an integral part of any piece. It is like the mitochondria (powerhouse) of any content. With punctuations, your content is utterly meaningless. Hence, the need to master the art of using punctuations, both when writing and proofreading. While proofreading, you can notice where you wrongly placed punctuation and correct it. You will also see that punctuations form the structure of a sentence. As a proofreader, you must know how to use punctuations. It is a crucial point to consider while proofreading.
English is a hilarious language with too many technicalities. A word that is correct today may be incorrect tomorrow. And the language setting differs according to specific regions, just like the UK spelling differs from the US spelling. Neither of the spelling patterns is wrong, but you must choose one and stick to it till you finish writing. Examples of words with different spellings are:
Spelled – Spelt
Organize – organize
Sympathize – Sympathize
Learned – learnt
And many more.
Also, note that these words are not wrong. The only thing required of you is to maintain the pattern you choose throughout your content. If you select the UK spelling pattern, be consistent, do not change to the US spelling pattern in between your text. The same goes for the US spelling pattern.
Furthermore, when writing numbers apart from serial numbers, it is either you write in words or as numbers. For example, My Mum has 12 daughters.My Mum has twelve daughters. The difference in the above sentences is clear. Write your numbers as numbers if you choose to, and maintain the flow. Or write your numbers as words if you decide to, and still keep the same energy. That way, you won’t come off as a confused writer to your audience. Also, while proofreading, checkout for your inconsistencies both in punctuations. Content with a consistent flow is very authentic.
Logical aspect of a Content
As a proofreader or a writer proofreading your work, always weigh the logical aspect of your content, especially when you are writing an informative piece. However, a good proofreader focuses on work without sentiments to make sure everything is in place. Make sure that the content of any literary work is logically correct. Avoid exaggerations except in cases where it is necessary. Make sure all events correlate. You can’t put on your shoe before wearing your socks, that’s logically incorrect, except when it’s contextually serving a common purpose.
Since proofreading is an option, repetition is inexcusable in a literary work. It is a prevalent mistake amongst writers, hence the need for proofreading. Suppose you write a piece over a long time, there are chances that you will fall into the trap of repetition, that’s why it is advisable to take breaks while writing. Also, when proofreading, check for sentences or words that unnecessarily appear more than twice at most, except if it is a keyword. Lookout for overused language too, as this can affect how your readers understand your content. Also, do not forget that variety is the spice of life, so endeavour to give your writing and proofreading job some spice. Be flexible but maintain accuracy.
This point is similar to consistency. If you are proofreading a fictional piece, most notably, always be consistent with your character names. And probably use pronouns when necessary, so it doesn’t become redundant. Do not change the name of your characters midway into the content because doing that will only confuse your readers. And that will take away the real essence of the piece.
Also, while proofreading, put yourself in the shoes of your audience, that will enable you to know how best to position the characters. In all, be consistent, that is the glue that binds your piece together.
What’s next after proofreading?
To put a finishing touch on your job, after proofreading, you can give it out to external bodies for a recheck and further corrections. But make sure you give it to someone who is literary inclined and understands the pros and cons of writing and proofreading. Know who you will give it to for further perusal to avoid messing up the entire work.
- A friend: As a proofreader, you certainly have learned friends that understand your job description and its importance. You can give it to one or two persons to help you go through your work as a fresh eye. That way, you get to know if your piece is understandable. If the article is related to a specific niche (if it is not a general piece), give it to a friend who is in that field already. Also, one person or two is enough so that you won’t end up editing out the main idea behind the content.
- A feedback from the owner of the text: This part is mostly applicable to ghostwriters. After you proofread, endeavour to give it to the owner of the piece to recheck. With that, you will get to know if you communicated the owner’s idea well enough. And if there is a need for changes, he/she will reach out to you. In proofreading, remember you are not the owner of the piece; your job is to go through a word and correct basic errors.
- Seek your mentor’s opinion: if you have a literary mentor, it is wise to seek their advice on a piece after proofreading. People who have stayed longer in the proofreading game have certainly gained experience you are yet to acquire. So, it is not out of place to seek their opinion, corrections and guidelines after proofreading. Send it as a virtual file or your print it out and send a hard copy. Also, proofreading requires every form of professionalism. Hence, it would be best if you do it well.
- Learn to share your experience: It takes a whole lot to proofread works, and when you do, do not hesitate to share your experience. It brings some relief and reminds you of your progress. By sharing your experience, you are not only easing yourself, but you are also making the job easy for someone else. You can also retrospect and learn new tips for future proofreading.
Requirements for a Proofreader
Whether you are a proofreader or you are hiring one, you should take note of these requirements, as these things differentiate an average proofreader from an expert.
- Attention to details: Proofreading requires precision and patience. These skills are the most critical personal skills every proofreader must possess. From word-to-word, line-to-line, he/she must pay rapt attention to details.
- A proofreader must also know how to simplify complex sentences for easy comprehension.
- Must have up-to-date knowledge of the English language, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary knowledge.
- Proofreaders must have excellent written and oral communication skills. This is the primary requirement, and you must be able to communicate with your readers in simple terms.
- In addition to these skills, you must also have the ability to organize a written piece. That is, you must know when a paragraph is needed, how and when to start.
- Also, as a proofreader, you must be able to meet deadlines. If you are hiring, make sure you check the work profile of such a person. Make sure he/she can meet deadlines.
- Furthermore, get familiar with digital tools. If you are hiring, also look for someone familiar with digital tools for writing and editing. Things you will omit, a digital tool or app can help you recognize them.
Difference between copy-editing and proofreading
Proofreading and copy-editing can work interchangeably, but in the real sense, they both differ. If proofreading involves identification of errors, then copy editing means rewriting a piece or change of tone on the manuscript. In other words, in copy editing, you are expected to change an informal tone to a formal tone while still maintaining the main content of the work. But for proofreading, you are just likely to check for errors and correct them. You should not change the tone of the write-up. Although copy-editing involves checking for mistakes too, it is not as straightforward as proofreading.
Difference between proofreading and editing
Editing is also not the same thing with proofreading. Although they are very similar, there is still a difference. Both proofreading and copy-editing focus on different aspects of writing and use different techniques. The editing part comes before the final stage of proofreading. The main goal of editing is to retain the primary purpose of writing and improve the quality of the content, review communication and primary language usage. While proofreading takes care of the content look via spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Like we said earlier, writing is a different ballgame from proofreading. Also, don’t be so confident in your writing skill until a proofreader has checked your work. Finally, proofreading is a process; you don’t become a pro overnight. By consistent practice, you can attain a formidable height in the proofreading journey.