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5 Proofreading Tips for Freelance Writers

proofreadIf you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’re probably aware that proofreading is not one of my strengths. It was only last week, for example, that I totally missed Dragon NaturallySpeaking had substituted the word “electronic” for “ergonomic.”

Thankfully Matthew Stibbe, who writes a great blog about writing, pointed out the error to me in a very kind comment. (It’s amazing how well kindness works!)

Another person also took me to task about another error – it happens often when I make a mistake. The result is I’ve been thinking about proofreading more than I usually do. Here are some proofreading tips and how they work for me:

Hire a professional copy editor

Hiring a pro who understands how to copy edit is a great idea with two drawbacks. The first is money and second is time. If you are seven figure blogger, the monie is probably no problem. But it is a consideration for many of us.

The other issue is time. Chances are the pro will need a couple of days to turn the piece around. That’s assuming it’s 1000 words or less. Obviously for book length and other long manuscripts there will be more time involved as well as more cost.

If you’ve got a secretary or other office personnel, they may be able to proofread for you but don’t count on it. Great copy editors know how to make you look good without changing your voice or the intent of your piece.

Walk away from the piece

Ideally you’ll be able to put the piece you wrote aside when you think you’re finished, for at least 24 hours; a week, a month, or even a year will probably make your proofing more accurate but these days we rarely have that kind of time.

I find if I do something quite different, like the dishes or start a load of laundry, no away from the computer when I come back 10 or 15 minutes later I’m more likely to spot errors.

Read it out loud

I think it’s always a good idea to read any writing you plan to publish out loud to yourself before you hit the publish button. You can take this another step forward by reading it into a recording device and then playing it back what you read along.

I generally use reading it out loud for editing other than proofreading. It’s surprising, however, how often reading aloud a word will show me that I’ve misspelled it.

Read it backwards

It always amazes me how well this works. I think it interrupts my brain from thinking it knows what’s coming next, which for me is a major part of my proofreading problems. Since I know what’s coming next I see what I’m thinking about not what I’m actually looking at. Reading from the last word to the first inter-upset process and helps me spot errors that need correcting.

Take heart

One of the truths about writing and publishing is that there are always mistakes. When the publisher released the first book I’d ever ghostwritten, they called the same day to tell me they had misspelled the author’s name on the spine, under the book cover. Fortunately they also called the author so I didn’t have to deliver the bad news.

I think every writer has more than one story of errors made. I’ll have to admit I was delighted when I found the page by Elite Editing, The Worst Proofreading Mistakes of All Time. There are some doozies there! Today I think I like the story of Air Canada’s X-Rated Bag Tags best – about midway down the page. Or maybe Thou Shalt Commit Adultery which is first tickles me the most.

Take a look and post your favorite in comments, along with your proofreading tips.

Write well and often,

annesig.

 

 

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Some very true points here, Anne. It can be so easy to make mistakes, Anne, and it is amazing how hard it often is to spot them. Although I do find your second point works well. If I come back to a post overnight I can often see mistakes that I have made.

    I have another issue as a contract writer who is a New Zealander writing mainly for American websites. It doesn’t take much to use a word like colour, rather than color (or the mistake I am regularly pulled up for) organisation instead of organisation.

    I found your deliberate mistake in your first point, the use of “monie”. Many years ago at school I was actually sent to my principal for misspelling “money”.
    Andrew Loader recently posted..Decluttering Your Home:  the Path to a Stress-Free HouseholdMy Profile

    • Yes, I’m aware that spelling is a bit different in the USA… and when I try to write for your country etc. the reverse is true… I have to look really hard to make sure I spell colour the right way… wonder when language will drop those differences.

  • I never even thought about the additional problems generated by Dragon. It’s hard enough to catch our typed word, much less our spoken word. 😉

    Those Worst Proofreading Mistakes are pretty funny. Thanks for sharing, Anne.

    P.S. Let’s see how many of your readers I can drive crazy with my CommentLuv post heading. 😉
    Cathy Miller recently posted..When I Works in Business CommunicationMy Profile

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