To Err is Human, But Proofreading Helps

Proofreading is a lost art, I’ve decided.

Most people think if you simply read the story one more time, you’ll catch any mistakes. They also think that spell- and grammar-check will catch everything else.

But that’s not how it works. I learned basic copy editing symbols when I worked in newspapers. When I worked in the Federal Reserve System, I really learned how to proofread. One of my colleagues taught me some good tips. It was especially critical with all the numbers I had to review. Printers and designers helped me, too.

Since I just finished editing and proofing a stack of copy, I thought I’d share a few with you.

  • It’s best to print a copy of your piece and edit on paper. Use wide margins and double-space.
  • Use a different font (Courier is good because it’s non-proportional). You are concentrating on the words, not the appearance.
  • Make the corrections on the paper. Then transfer the corrections to the computer, crossing them off on paper as you go.
  • Use a red, purple or green (any color other than black or blue) pen to mark up your text. Use another color to cross them out as you transfer them to the computer.
  • Read your work out loud. You will be more focused than if you read silently. (I resisted this one for years, but it really works!)
  • Read backwards (from the bottom of the page upwards). It will make the words unfamiliar and unnatural in order so you are more likely to find mistakes.

I hope these help to make your writing error free. If you have others, please share.