7 Proofreading Steps

By Mark Nichol

Proofreading is the last line of defense for quality control in print and online publishing. Be sure to conduct a thorough proofread of all documents before they are printed for distribution and of all Web pages before they go live, using these guidelines.

But before you proof, you must edit. (This post explains the difference between the two processes.) There’s no use expending time and effort to check for minor typographical errors until the editing stage is complete. Review for proper organization, appropriate tone, and grammar, syntax, usage, and style before the document is laid out.

Stakeholders should read the edited version before layout and submit requests for revisions during the editing stage. If anyone other than the editorial staff must see the proof, remind him or her that only minor changes should be made at this point.

1. Use a Checklist
Create a list of important things to check for, such as problem areas like agreement of nouns and verbs and of pronouns and antecedents, and number style.

2. Fact-Check
Double-check facts, figures, and proper names. If information remains to be inserted at the last minute, highlight the omission prominently so that no one forgets to do so.

3. Spell-Check
Before proofreading a printout, spell-check the electronic version to find misspellings, as well as errors you or a colleague make frequently, such as omitting a closing parenthesis or quotation mark.

4. Read Aloud
Reading text during the proof stage improves your chances of noticing errors, especially missing (“a summary the report follows”) or repeated (“a summary of the the report follows”) words.

5. Focus on One Line at a Time
When proofing print documents, use another piece of paper or a ruler to cover the text following the line you are proofreading, shifting the paper down as you go along. This technique helps you keep your place and discourages you from reading too quickly and missing subtle errors.

6. Attend to Format
Proofreading isn’t just about reviewing the text. Make sure that the document design adheres to established specifications. Check page numbering, column alignment, relative fonts, sizes, and other features of standard elements such as headlines, subheadings, captions, and footnotes. Inspect each type of feature within categories, such as looking at every headline, then every caption, and so on.

7. Proof Again
Once revisions have been made, proofread the document again with the same thoroughness, rather than simply spot-checking the changes. An insertion or deletion may have thrown off the line count, for example.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


7 Responses to “7 Proofreading Steps”

  • Dwain Wilder

    As a last step in proofreading, I’ve found an old tip very helpful: read from back to front. Laborious, but snaps things into focus that have been missed because of our unconscious mind’s ability to seek to complete contextual meaning. This helps you read without regard to context.

  • James

    Thank you for this article, Mark. It’s very timely since I’ve been writing a lot more as of late. I feel these suggestions will help me tremendously with my work.

  • Rosemary T.

    Do you have any suggestions for proofreading tests? I’d like to build my speed and accuracy with a self-assessment tool. Thanks!

  • Glynis Jolly

    I have found 2 other ways to proofread as a blogger. My 1st draft is in Word. Another typical word process programs can work for this. I do the spell and grammar check in Word and I proofread once. I go back to it and proofread again after at least 3 hours.

    The 2 other ways:
    1. I transfer the piece to Windows Live Write and proofread again. Having the piece in a different program helps me find errors I didn’t see before, and it’s kind of like having fresh eyes, which helps me word my sentences better, and I add and subtract sentences and phrases.
    2. I transfer this version to the online editor at my blog and proofread once again. The same thing happens with me as it did before just by switching where I’m reading the piece on my computer. With this sweep, I also do another auto check of spelling and grammar.

  • John Rayner

    As laborious as it sounds, I first read text backwards – it forces one to concentrate on each word individually rather than their being part of a sentence, which can lead to flitting over words and missing mistakes. Then a spell check, and a re-read front to back, and then, after a cuppa, read it again.

  • Liton Biswas

    I do “Read Aloud” action after completing other proof reading things just before publishing post. I maintained a checklist for proof reading.
    Many things are common between me and this post.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Debbie King

    All great comments, and I might add that I proofread out loud while standing up or walking around. Changing body position sharpens senses.

Leave a comment: