Proofreading. Probably the most dreaded part of the editing process. This is the writerís last opportunity to smooth out the rough edges and correct any errors in the copy. Many people tend to confuse editing and proofreading but there is a difference between the two. Editing focuses on content and clarity of copy and making sure the story flows together. Meanwhile, proofreading is the time to check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and punctuation errors. You want the story to not only sound good but look good as well. Errors are careless and distracting and a reader will remember bad grammar and misspelled words more than theyíll remember how great a story sounded. Keep that in mind when settling in to proofread.
Proofreading begins after the writing process is complete. Donít try to proofread as you write; it can be distracting to you the writer and is best left for the final stage. The best advice to give before proofreading is, take a break! Youíve spent hours or days writing the story and your eyes are tired. If you begin looking for mistakes immediately you are prone to miss them as your eyes have been staring at the same words for quite some time. If you just canít wait to begin proofreading at least walk away from the paper for a little while, take a short walk or grab a meal, try whatever works for you but a nice breather will clear your head. It also helps to give the paper to a friend; a fresh set of eyes will be beneficial as they may come across errors that you missed.
Once you are ready to begin proofreading select a comfortable environment to settle into. This aspect of the writing process may take a while so you should feel relaxed. Try to select an area with little distraction, you want to correct all possible mistakes before the copy is printed and/or published. Next up, select the medium in which you would like to proofread such as having a printed copy to mark-up or working directly on the computer. Whichever your choice, make a selection and stick with it so you remain comfortable the entire time. It is wise to have a dictionary on hand as spell checkers donít always catch misspelled words and you donít want to second guess yourself on spelling. Computers have a tough time with proper names; they usually flag them as misspelled. Therefore, always double check the names of people and places.
Though you donít look forward to proofreading and youíd like to be done with it sooner rather than later, donít rush through the process. Your eyes won't catch mistakes that way. Simply take your time by reading every sentence slowly. Read out loud as this will force you to hear the mistakes as you come across them. It is usually best to break the proofreading into sections and then take a break in between. It can become overwhelming to proofread an entire story or paper in one sitting which may result in missed errors.
Don't forget about punctuation markers either. Try circling each one while asking yourself if you used the proper punctuation. Exclamation points should be used sparingly; donít use an exclamation point where a period will suffice. A sentence can be thrown off course when the wrong punctuation is used.
Above all else, think of your audience when you proofread. How will they perceive your story? You want them to read it as you read it. That can be difficult if a story is filled with grammatical errors. Computers are great at detecting improper grammar but they arenít perfect. The computer may recognize a sentence as improper though it may not actually be so; computers arenít always smart enough to figure out what weíre trying to say as opposed to what we should say. It is wise to keep grammar books on hand during this process so you may reference them when needed.
Proofreading can be overwhelming if you donít know where to start. It is best to take your time, really searching the story for mistakes. These guidelines will hopefully provide some help when proofing your next story. Just remember that when in doubt always double check!