The Impotence of Proofreading

By Daniel Scocco

proofreading.gifIts a fact that a spell checker will not catch all the mistakes on your text. More specifically, it will not catch misspellings that form other valid words.

So how do you solve this problem? Proofreading, of coarse!

Just read again through you’re text trying to spot words that don’t fit, and make sure to not loose the focus while you do it. Proofreading is sometimes more important then using the spell checker itself.

You should proofread virtually any written piece, from emails to blog posts. Proofread your homework as well, since you don’t want to drive the principle of your school crazy.

Let’s be honest, misspelled words are defiantly a sign of ignorance.

The simple act of proofreading will have a great affect on the quality of your material, and I am sure that you’ll earn more complements from people.

Their you go my friend, and take this advice seriously. After all, you don’t want to look dumb in front of the general pubic!

P.S. Can you find all the “mistakes”?

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


88 Responses to “The Impotence of Proofreading”

  • Eli

    How right you are. I’m not much of a proofreader of my own content, then one day when I’m randomly reading some of it I see terrible mistakes 🙁 So I should definitely proofread more often.

  • Daniel

    No kidding, when you go through older pieces that you’ve written you find a lot of messy stuff.

  • Jay Wagers

    Here’s a tip I used in graduate school and one I pass along to my students: Read aloud to yourself.

    When you proofread silently, you really tend to skim and possibly miss mistakes. But, if you read aloud, there is absolutely no way your mouth can keep up with your brain. Therefore, you have to slow down and you can “hear” your mistakes more easily.

    People may give you funny looks, but not when grades come out and you are on top.

  • Ray Fowler

    Ha! Great post Daniel. I counted eleven proofreading “errors.” Did I miss any?

  • Daniel

    If you count the title, there are 12 🙂 .

  • Jay Wagers

    Really? I count 13.

  • Berto

    You almost had me! As I started reading the first sentence in an entry about self-assessment in writing I thought how ironic it was that the very first word was already a grammatical infraction, ha ha.

    Great entry, good fun… keep up the good work.

  • Dave Donoghue

    Great entry. I like the reading aloud idea, and I also read sections and paragraphs out of order, which helps refocus my mind.

  • Ali

    For a minute I thought, what is this guy preaching to us for. Then I got the message 😉

    Good “articel”.

  • Roshawn

    You had me going for a minute, but then I understood you were actively trying to teach us what proofreading is all about.

    For the record, I count 13 errors.

    Excellent post. Keep ’em coming! 🙂

  • Better Blogging with Michael Martine

    Well, I hope you enjoy your newfound search prowess concerning the word “impotence”. 😉

    Great article! I laughed all the way through.

  • Homonym

    Homonym is a headache in medical transcription too! Once while proofreading a file, I ended up with a sentence like this: “He lives with his knees” where as it should be “niece.” Silly isn’t it? No spellchecker could spot it unless you proofread it. Else, our silly mistake is a joke for others.

  • Camille

    Oops, “the principle of your school?”

  • Camille

    I got 12 errors! A little late on the thread.

  • Robble

    Proofreading after a short break, or better yet: a good nite’s sleep, increases the quality of your revisions/corrections, mebelieves.

  • Vostro

    One way to proofread is to read the text one word at a time, from the last word to the first word in the document written.

  • polly

    Hukd on FonikZ wurcked 4 I.

  • Cristina

    you haven’t proofread your blog either 🙂 HeHe i think that’s b/c you wanted to make a point:)

  • WetcoastBob

    Owed two a Spell Chequer

    Eye halve a spelling chequer; 
It came with my pea sea;
It plainly marques four my revue 
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea. 

Eye strike a key and type a word 
End weight four it two say 
Weather eye am wrong our write – 
It shows me straight a weigh. 

As soon as a mist ache is maid 
It nose bee fore two long, 
And eye kin put the arrow rite
It’s rare lea ever wrong. 

Eye have run this poem threw it; 
I am shore your pleased two no 
Its letter perfect awl the weigh, 
My spell chequer tolled me sew!

  • SexDrgsPoker

    I think your an outstanding writer, which shows in you’re grammar. Professional proofreaders are fine, but there going to get they’re booty kicked over their, especially if your going to continue writing you’re articles.

  • drunkenoaf

    “it shows in you’re grammar”. Ha! Very witty (I hope!)

  • Business Market Research

    proofreading is all about re ensuring your thoughts rather than correcting grammar and typo.

  • Business Market Research

    typo and grammar always put off people

  • jamirus99

    Taylor Mali, the slam poet, has a fantastic track labled “The Impotence of Proof-reading.”

    I wonder if that’s where the title came from.

  • Simon Raybould

    Not just to proof after a break, but better still, get someone else to do it!

    I find it’s very hard – almost impossible – to spot my own mistakes but I can see other people’s……


  • lauren

    I am all about proof reading but what about those crazy typos that just don’t get caught? I double space my writing and then read each paragraph backwards so I can take the sentences out of context but still I hate missing a “no” when it should be “know”.

  • Daniel

    Lauren, reading backwards is good advice indeed.

  • Aaron

    I love the purposeful misspellings in the article… It reminds me of reading just about everything I’ve ever read on the internet. I’ve also noticed that a lot of more “reputable” news outlets like the New York Times and Reuters seem to have lost the ability to proofread. Interesting stuff.

  • Brandon

    I’ve found that a good way to proofread, for spelling mistakes, is to read everything backwards. Similar to how reading out loud forces you to read everything, reading backwards breaks up your flow and really highlights the words by themselves.

    “pubic general the of front in dumb look to want don’t you all after”

  • Jenue Brosinski

    I love the title of this article!

  • kevan

    Psst… The title of your post is also the title of a poem from Taylor Mali, did you snag it from him?

  • Matt Keegan

    I love the use of their for there, principle for principal, etc. No spell checker will catch those mistakes, nor will every grammar checker do the same.

  • Daniel

    Kevan, yeah I had seen Taylor Mali’s video a couple of time ago, it served as inspiration.

  • subcorpus

    i’ve reread it several times …
    i simply cant seem to find 12 mistakes …

  • Sandy Pell

    What fun! May I share this with my SAT test-prep students? Most have not quite grasped the idea that there, their and they’re are not interchangeable. Don’t get me started on their pronoun agreement and case.

  • Daniel

    Sandy, sure 🙂 .

  • Leion

    Sometimes the first proof reading missed out some mistakes and it takes the 2nd or the 3rd one to get to it

  • Abbe Logee

    Actually, you need to proofread several times — for different types of errors. Reading backward will usually catch misspellings, but not poor grammar or homonym problems. You have to reread VERY CAREFULLY, from front to back, to check for grammar and syntax errors as well as just plain bad writing.

    The best way to proofread, however, is to ask someone else with good writing/spelling/grammar skills to check your writing for you.

  • Rick

    Dew knot trussed spell-ing chequers two fined awl yore mist steaks.

  • greendawg

    When proofreading, a red penis your best friend.

  • Jakob

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title poetry. Thanks for informative article

  • Raji Joshi

    That was fun. I could catch 13 mistakes.wonder if there are more.

  • Bill

    Even though the article states there are 13 errors, there are actually 12. My suspicion is that “misspelled” is spelled correctly, and the common misconception is that it is spelled as “mispelled”.

  • Prateek Kashyap

    The worst part of not proof reading a piece and then sending it is like sending out a message saying “unprofessional” written all over it. I guess we all need to cultivate this habit.

  • Mike


  • Simonne

    Very funny! I always heated proofreading!

  • peter

    I often find myself cutting and pasting blog comments such as these into an email draft or some other program that at least allows a spell check. It seems like a “word usage checker” for the 500 most common mistakes could also be easily included.

  • Joe

    Great Stuff!

  • Events

    Proofreading is the probably one of the more important aspects of writing. It trains you to be more observant and scrutinizing your writing before someone else has the chance to is advised.

  • pawblo

    General pubic, ha!

    good to have tense in your import!

  • Jenny

    I honestly don’t think I’ve ever proofread anything in my entire life. Sad isn’t it?

  • Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    Really, 13 mistakes. 12 spelling mistakes including title, plus one missed apostrophe. Several of the spelling mistakes are misuses of words that would be spelled correctly in a different context. I think many people missed “on” in “on your text”. It should be “in”.

    (Btw I’m a professional proof-reader, lol.)

    Excellent article!

  • Greg Landretti

    I miss words. Plain and simple. I miss them when I write and I miss them when I proof. When I read my work back to myself, I add words that are not there. There is no known treatment.
    Therefore, I use a sofware reader called ReadPlease with a high quality AT&T voice. When I “listen” to my writing and follow along with the text on the monitor, I can “hear” the missed words. Is this an extra step? Yes. Does it prevent mistakes. Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

  • Han Dingchao

    For me, I’d like to check every one of my article word by word, I don’t like to use check tools because I don’t think they are working very well.

    But I still make some mistake sometimes. What I want to do is learning more about using English so I can write it perfectly.

  • Bree

    Ugh, the double-edged sword of proof reading.
    As a an account handler in an ad agency the “out loud” proof technique was stuffed down my throat. I hated it- every ad, even the pick ups, were read out loud- spaces and punctuation included. It was like a contest to see who could be the most obsessive about double spaces and commas!
    And then, reborn as a copywriter, I came to a new agency and found that not only did they not proof out loud, they didn’t proof at all.
    Everyone assumes that everyone else:
    A) knows how to properly proof
    B) will proof the document for them

    Suddenly, those years of suffering through long documents read aloud seemed like the good old days…

    Moral of my story: Proofing may seem like a pain, but getting it done makes all the difference!

  • M

    Bree: you’ve got bottle! I don’t know many people who have moved from the accounts to the creatives dept, but well done you. I’m sure you’re a lot more satisfied with your job now.

  • KWiz

    Do you mean the “Importance” (not “Impotence”) of proofreading?

  • Lorraine

    Having taken secretarial and business training in college, I feel that I am a pretty fair editor. I have noticed something in your writing and others lately and wonder if it is something new since my education in 1950. That something is putting only one space at the end of a sentence. I was taught to put two spaces. what do you thinK?

  • karl

    proofread to eliminate errors when writing something :), i do love writing my ideas about something but i never thougth that it would affect somehow if theres errors in it 🙂

  • karl

    why did you call it the impotence of proofreading?.i think it should be the importance

  • PreciseEdit

    One point that many writers don’t understand is that writing and proofreading require different skills, a different frame of mind. Writing is creative with some technical skills, and proofreading is technical with some creativity.

    Perhaps another point is that the work is very tedious and intensive. As such, one quick proofread of any document is probably not enough. We were finding too many missed errors during our quality control processes and finally had to institute a 3-part proofreading process: On screen, on paper, on screen. Once that processes is completed, we still have to perform quality control, and we still find the occasional error. With a goal of fewer than one mistake per 50 pages, one quick proofreading pass through a document simply won’t suffice.

  • Shakey

    I dunno about the ‘reading backwards’ thing…I tried it and just got more confused.

    “!cibup lareneg eht fo tnorf ni bmud kool ot tnaw t’nod uoy ,lla retfA” ???

    Heck, that ALL looks like mistakes to me! (Well, except for “kool”)


  • BillinDetroit

    I try to give stuff a day or two to ‘ripen’. By then, I can focus on the reading as if someone else had written the material … and something usually has begun to stink.

    I can still let ‘thinkos’ get by me, but I’m able to bring my limited grammar vocabulary to bear. Oddly enough, once the grammatical errors have been cleared away, the ‘thinkos’ show up better.

    I have one other rule — a process, actually. I write as concisely as I can. Then I summarily toss 2/3 of the material and rearrange the rest more logically. Then I edit the beast with a red pencil in hand, looking for phrases and entire sentences which are not required to tell the story. They are there. Just to keep the process from being entirely linear, I will also add, delete and add and delete fresh sentences … sometimes the exact same sentence will make an appearance several times before I’ll realize that I really do need to say it — in another piece.

    After a couple iterations of this, I’m ready to let someone else proofread it for me. I try to pick someone who doesn’t much like me but has a definite respect for the English language. Unfortunately, I know no one fitting this description.

    I’ve resisted the temptation to engage in ‘manglish’. This really IS the sort of writing I start with. Darn you, Admiral Halsey!

  • BillinDetroit

    @ karl — oh, never mind.

  • cmdweb

    Eye though tit looked prefectly awl wright.

  • Cory

    I’d be happy just looking at the general pubic. The possibilities are endless…

  • Bill Cooney

    Reading aloud for proofreading: I’ve been doing it instinctively for a long time. I sound like a third grader – I usually read that slowly – but it works for all the reasons you say it does. I can attest to its usefullness (2 ‘ls’?). Great tip!

  • Sheila

    With computer typing the new style is one space. In typing on a typewriter it is two full spaces or was when I was a girl.

  • Carson Buckingham

    I found 17 errors in style, grammar and spelling.

  • Alice

    Speaking of mistakes. Of coarse?

  • Jon Boyd Ann Arbor real estate Exclusive Buyer’s Agent

    Great article and great responses.

    I like to have my Macintosh computer read my text. I often end up doing the repeated word thing and it catches those as well as words like impotence.

  • Emma

    I agree with Jon that getting your computer to read things out loud can be a real eye-opener! As earlier commenters have pointed out, it’s very easy to read what you thought you wrote – not what you wrote. Reading it out loud yourself can start to get over that – but getting someone else – or, in the case of the computer, something else! to read it out loud can really help.

  • Dee

    Crap! i missed ‘impotance’ .. i should beat myself to death!

  • Baruch Atta

    I got 7 on first try. 12 on second. Who’s on third.
    Although no spell checker is perfect, I have learned a lot about spelling by just spell checking, and r-e-a-d-i-n-g the way the spell checker spells.
    As for my background, I got an “A” in spelling. In the first grade. In the fifth and sixth, “D’s”. My spell checker saved me. This was written without a spell checker. As are all my posts to blogs. But when I write in my own blog, I check.

  • Mike Sellars

    As an experienced proofreader, I find spell checking software quite useful for ‘clearing the decks’ before I begin proofreading in earnest. Relying on said software, however, is fatal.

    An increasingly common error is the ‘of/have confusion’. For example, “I should of locked the front door” instead of “I should have locked the front door”. Spell checking software is powerless to spot this kind of thing.

  • John Carraway

    Hemingway rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times. It’s not just about proofreading for grammar and punctuation, but for content and style as well. Don’t get so caught up in where the comma goes that you don’t even realize that the document doesn’t meet your quality standards to begin with. This comment has grammatical errors in it as well, but you still get the meaning–which is most important.

  • ioan nicut

    believing that „misspelled words are defiantly a sign of ignorance” might be a sign of ignorance. What are you ignoring when you are so sure? 🙂

  • Shiv

    When proofreading from paper I use a clean sheet of paper to cover all the lines except the one I’m reading. This exposes only one line at a time, which helps me focus fully on it. It really helps spot both spelling and sentence construction errors.

  • Kevin

    Thanks guys for sharing this informative information.

  • Jim Powell

    Nice illustration! We all know how important first impressions are but often forget this fact when writing in a hurry. Take your time. Proofreading can actually be fun and therefore even more effective. Involve others and make it a regular habit.

  • Pete

    Great article! Being a professional proofreader myself this is information I find very informative.

  • transcribe

    Yes, proofreading by an expert ensures zero mistakes. Mistakes, whether spelling or grammar gives a wrong impression. That’s why every transcript should be checked by proofreaders.

  • Neil

    To anyone who couldn’t find the 12 mistakes they are:

    Impotence = Importance
    Its = It’s
    coarse = course
    you’re = your
    loose = lose
    then = than
    principle = principal
    defiantly = definitely
    affect = effect
    complements = compliments
    Their = there
    pubic = public

  • Editing service

    Gotta love this!

  • kalpanaceo

    I like this post. One day i search a topic Proofreading service company, that time i find a company Informatics Outsourcing. They are providing the best service with Affordable price.

  • Louise Robinson

    OK this isn’t a new article but will remain relevant for a long time to come. I am so passionate about proofreading that I now offer a simple and affordable option for the sole trader. It’s not just typos and spelling errors. It’s making sure it reads right and there is consistency of style. Can’t afford a proofreading service – you can’t afford not to 🙂

  • Vinayak Gadkari

    Excellent article, the article had me for a minute!

    Proof reading is the final check. A simple VB script (see below) can be used to do this final check while sending out an important document or email.

    ‘ Speaks text passed on command line
    Dim sapi
    set sapi = CreateObject(“sapi.spvoice”)
    sapi.Speak WScript.Arguments.Item(0)

  • Cheryl B

    Touche!! I was drinking a diet pepsi when I read this. Huge mistake!! I spit all over my keyboard!! Touche. Bravo. I am an executive recruiter who types like a 2nd grader. I have sent more garbage out to CEO’s and other exec types than I care to admit. I was even considering scheduling an appointment with a neurologist. No need, I just need to PROOFREAD ALL communication/s and wait a few minute and proofread again and then hit the send button!!!! I can still see my embosses face a year ago when I sent something to him and he waited until the next day to show it to me. Just God awful. I have worked hard to be self employed and do not want to appear like a hillbilly any longer.

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