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6 Tips for Proofreading Your Own Writing

Proofreading is a must! It’s difficult to copy edit your own work because you’re so close to it – you know what’s coming next which often means you unconsciously skip along, missing typos and misspellings completely.

Or at least I think that’s what happens to me, so I’m guessing that’s how it works for many of you.

Spell check helps, at least some, but we all know it isn’t the full answer. Learning how to copy your own work is part of becoming a successful freelance writing.

These tips can help:

  1. Pay extra attention to your word processor’s spelling check. It’s easy to miss the cues when you’re in the heat of writing or editing. And if you’re blogging using WordPress, it’s awfully easy to miss the red underlines showing problematic spelling.
  2. Print the manuscript and read it out loud. This slows you down so it’s easier to spot errors, and your ear will also pick up other things that need to be changed.
  3. Put the manuscript aside for at least 24 hours – several days is even better. You will see it with fresher eyes when you return to it.
  4. Ask someone else to read it. Make it clear you only want them to spot spelling errors and totally unclear sentences, not their opinion or editing.
  5. Read the manuscript backwards, from the last word to the first. If it’s too long to do this efficiently, read difficult passages backwards.
  6. Proofreading or copy editing is the last step before submitting a manuscript.

Proofreading is a must! It’s not fun, and it’s not easy, but it often makes the difference between rejection and acceptance.

What proofing tips do you use?


{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Tom Slaiter January 7, 2013, 1:59 am

    The tips at the end Annew are great. Thanks for the post! :-)

  • Ali August 14, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Ha! you published this post like three years back, Anne and I’ve written on the same topic a couple days back. I only came to know about it when searching for my piece on Google. Maybe next time I should just search if you’ve already covered it and simply add a link to it 😉
    Ali recently posted..Unlock The 14 Little-Known Tips To Proofread Your Own Work FlawlesslyMy Profile

    • annew August 15, 2012, 10:42 am

      No worries, Ali, you’ll have a slightly or totally different take on it than I will. See, I had 6 tips and you’ve got 16!

  • Nimoh June 3, 2011, 3:45 am

    I rely like your pages but i want a chat of how i can manage my daily priority. Thank you.

  • Lowrha November 9, 2010, 2:13 pm

    I’m often not somewhere I can read aloud to myself, so I zoom in on my doc so the text the screen left to right. Seems overly simple, but making it as massive as possible helps me see mistakes.

    And I agree… you skip over stuff when you know what’s there. I do my best proofing when I “forget” what I wrote

    • Lowrha November 9, 2010, 2:15 pm

      *so the text “fills” the screen left to right. I obviously didn’t do that here :)

      • annew November 9, 2010, 2:44 pm

        reading backwards solves some proofing problems

    • annew November 9, 2010, 2:44 pm

      oh, I see 😉

  • Mark Walusimbi July 21, 2009, 3:12 pm

    This is a wonderful post. My advise is not to count on MS Word spell checker or any software. Just get someone else to look at your work.

    • Anne July 22, 2009, 9:43 am


  • Theresa Alleman July 21, 2009, 3:10 pm

    Terrific post! Getting an outside set of eyes or a Professional grammar editor to proofread ones resume is the surest way to get all the misspelled words and awkward phrases corrected.

    • Anne July 22, 2009, 9:43 am


  • admin May 8, 2009, 10:36 am

    Spike, if you’ve got a partner who is good at this count yourself extra lucky.
    Jay, I looked at autocrit – http://www.autocrit.com/ free to try and could be very helpful
    Autumn, changing things helps
    Lesley, I always like tips about mental shifts 😉

  • Lesley May 6, 2009, 9:42 pm

    Here’s one more tip: when proofreading, assume there are mistakes and pretend that your “job” is to find as many as possible. This little mental shift makes a big difference.

    Lesley’s last blog post..Piano lessons, life lessons – Part 2

  • Autumn May 6, 2009, 5:46 pm

    One of my jobs requires me to write in a template online. No matter how often I look over the writing in the template, I never seem to catch any mistakes until I read it in the “preview” mode. The preview window simply changes the font and gets rid of the lines between paragraphs, but somehow any spelling/grammar errors are much more obvious in that mode, so I’ve learned never to skip it.

    Autumn’s last blog post..5 Beneficial Writing Habits

  • Jay May 6, 2009, 12:38 pm

    My editing secret is the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It finds TONS of things that my eye misses.

  • SpikeTheLobster May 5, 2009, 5:55 pm

    All of those tips are great: editing aloud catches so many mistakes! You asked what tips we use… well, I have one that is particular to my situation: I ask my partner to read important work. Nothing special about that, right? Wrong! She’s French, so even the tiniest little weirdness or bad sentence LEAPS out at her and grabs her by the throat. The only down-side is all the rewriting it means I have to do… d’oh!

    SpikeTheLobster’s last blog post..The Word Philes 7

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