Unseeing: Tips for Better Proofreading

Unseeing: Tips for Better Proofreading

February 26, 2019

Occasionally Precision Training learners will ask for tips or guidance for them to consider to improve their attention to detail and proofreading skills. Consider this blog post the start of that conversation. Depending on what comes of this, we might add a resource on this topic to our Precision Training courses.

Below are some approaches I find helpful, beyond using proofreading software (which, of course, can be quite helpful for spotting and avoiding common mistakes too). A common theme is finding ways to gain different perspective to reveal items you're unwittingly glossing over. Please comment or message us with what you've found to work for you! 

1. Read out loud

In addition to reading silently, proofread by reading out loud. Your ear might catch something that sounds awkward (and an error might be causing that awkward ring), and reading a different way (especially, a way less prone to skipping or skimming) might cause your eye to catch something you unknowingly skipped over when reading silently.

2. Take a break

Sometimes you've read something so many times that you've become too close to it. To regain some distance, if you have the luxury of time, move on to something else for awhile and come back to proofreading after a few hours (or perhaps even a few days, if that's realistic for the task at hand). Ever re-read an old email and see a glaring typo you can't believe you didn't catch before you hit send? Sometimes you don't see something until after the benefit of time and the distance it brings.

3. Print it out

Another way to get fresh perspective with your own eyes is to print out what you're reviewing (presuming so far you've been reviewing it on a screen).

4. Read it backwards (right to left, bottom to top)

Yet another way to get fresh eyes is to switch up how you're reading something. Not only does reading backwards give you a fresh take, but it'll force you to read each word and prevent your brain from optimizing for substantive understanding with minimal effort (which, in other circumstances involving tasks with different goals, can be a useful hack our brain likes to pull).

5. Take several swipes for different types of issues

It might be easier to catch a variety of different issues if you take several passes, each focused on a different category of issues (e.g., typos, formatting, numbering, definitions). Consult Praktio's Proofreading Checklist (which comes with each Precision Training course) for a list of proofing issues organized by category.

6. Use a checklist of common mistakes (especially your pain points)

Speaking of Praktio's Proofreading Checklist, using a checklist can help you to make sure you're proofing for every issue that could be present. Even better, also keep a short list of the types of issues you commonly miss (if you commonly miss certain types of issues). We got you covered on this one too: At the end of every Praktio Precision Training exercise module, you'll get a performance summary detailing your strengths and weaknesses.

7. Keep a running checklist for encountered issues

Similar to using a generic checklist and one consisting of your common pain points, keep a running checklist for issues you uncover in the document you're reviewing. I noticed in proofing this post that I was inconsistently italicizing references to "Precision Training." (We've been moving toward italicizing references to our courses in these articles.) Once I noticed that mistake, I added to my list to "globally" search for that particular issue in this document. If a certain mistake is made once in a document, there's a good chance it's made elsewhere too.

8. Recruit fresh eyes

If you can and it's appropriate for the task, get someone else to review your work too. Many of the above tips are geared toward giving yourself a new perspective on what you're reviewing. Of course, another way to get a different perspective is to get a whole new set of eyes on the case. Plus, when hunting for errors, the more eyes, the better.

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Comment or message us with other tips you'd like us to share!


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