Employing a professional proofreader is always the best option when it comes to adding that final high-class sheen to your work. But (reality being what it is) if you’re short on time or money, dealing with a complex piece of work, or have perhaps been thinking of becoming a freelance proofreader for extra income, doing it yourself could be a good place to start.
To help you come out on top more often than not, and avoid some common proofreading pitfalls, give these precision-boosting techniques a try when evaluating your work.
1. Let it breathe
So you’ve hit the final full stop in the very last paragraph of your work – and the temptation is strong to rush right back to the beginning and start editing (if you haven’t been doing that as you go). Alternatively, you might want to throw the manuscript in a drawer and never look at it again (been there, done that!). In either case, it’s always a good idea to let the work breathe – allowing your writing palate to be cleansed, but not letting so much time pass that you forget about it entirely. One to three weeks is a good bet, with a little more or less depending on the length or complexity of the work.
2. Listen to it
Reading your work aloud lets you experience it in a brand new way. Mistakes are often thrown into stark relief, and it’s far easier to discern flow and rhythm. Reading it out loud yourself is good, but getting a friend to do it is better. There are, however, many free text-to-speech services, either software or web-based, which sound very human. Technology has the benefit of being unable to skim-read, so mistakes will sound out loud and clear.
3. Change the font
Swapping out your Times New Roman for a fresh Georgia look will force your brain to read the text in a new light. You’re more likely to pay attention and avoid involuntary skim-reading this way, and you can always change it back when you’re finished. If you can’t find a font you’re comfortable with, try changing the background colour of your screen or the size of the text instead, for a similar helpful impact on your proofreading efforts.
4. Load it onto your Kindle
If you have a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader, your gadget will generally allow you to transfer files from your computer. So… why not load up the manuscript you’re working on? Kindles have their own fonts, allow various text sizes and offer other formatting quirks, so your work will look radically different, giving you fresh insight. Plus, if the story is destined for self-publishing, you could get a whole new perspective on the reading experience by seeing your book as others will. Check out Calibre for an excellent method of manually loading content onto your reader.
5. Read backwards
According to the professionals, this is a tried and true method of making your brain think differently about the text when proofreading. Don’t read every word in reverse order, just every sentence or paragraph. By turning the content on its head, you’re isolating each portion of the writing, and interrupting your sense of what “should” come next. The result? You spot mistakes more easily!
You may find you don’t need all of these techniques to get into a good proofreading flow. In fact, it might be best if you choose one at a time, and make several passes – but don’t forget to let the work breathe in between!
Do you proofread your own work? Have you tried any of these techniques? Which is your favorite? Let us know all about it in the comments!