10 Editing and Proofreading Tips for Beginners

Need to edit or proofread your own work? These 10 editing and proofreading tips for beginners are practical and easy to follow.

How to edit or proofread your work like a pro

Sometimes, you have no choice but to write copy, edit, and proofread everything on your own. After all, not everyone is in a position to be able to afford professional editing or proofreading services yet.

Don’t want to miss any problem areas? Then familiarize yourself with these 10 editing and proofreading tips.

1.    Take a break.

Once you’re done writing, it’s important to take a break—go for a walk, head out for some coffee & cake, or simply sleep over it. The key is to look over your work with fresh eyes. Distance yourself from the work you’ve just done before you dive back into it. After all, tired eyes catch fewer mistakes.

2.    Eliminate distractions.

Work where you’re comfortable but more importantly, work where you won’t get distracted. Whether you prefer total silence or need a bit of background noise, you’ll want to work in an environment that allows you to concentrate on the task at hand. Turn your phone on silent. Log off social networking sites. Have the kids play in another room so you can focus.

3.   Don’t rush.

Split the work up into manageable chunks. Remember that you don’t have to complete the entire document in one sitting – chances are you won’t anyway. So tackle one ‘section’ at a time and take breaks as needed.

4.    Break the text down.

It’s easier to spot mistakes if you change the format of large chunks of text (like paragraphs) into individual sentences – only for the purpose of editing of course. What do I mean? Simply start a new line after every sentence.

5.    Temporarily alter the document’s appearance.

Typo blindness is when you’re unable to spot the mistakes in what you’ve written. This is because you already know what you’re trying – or want – to say.

One way to overcome this is to try and trick your mind into thinking that you’re looking at an unknown (totally new) document. How can you do this? By changing the text or background colour, adjusting text size, or switching to a different font entirely.

6.    Don’t count on automatic spelling and grammar checkers.

These tools are programmed with a limited set of ‘rules’. And even with all the latest developments in technology, checkers aren’t capable yet of understanding what’s written the way that humans can. This means:

  • They don’t always catch every error.
  • What they mark as incorrect isn’t always right either.

Use such tools as a starting point – for support – but don’t rely on them too heavily.

7.    Work with a hard copy.

Even if you’re most comfortable working on the computer, it’s always good practice to read through a hard copy. You’ll spot things in the printout that you didn’t on screen.

8.    Read out loud.

Want to know if something sounds ‘weird’ or disjointed? Read it out loud. The way it sounds in your head can be different to how it sounds when spoken out loud. Don’t skip this step.

9.    Work through one set of errors at a time.

Don’t try to achieve everything – checking for spelling, grammar, accuracy, repetition, etc. – in one reading. You’re more likely to miss things that way. Instead, check for one type of error at a time.

10.  Feedback from family and / or friends.

When in doubt, ask for help. Aside from getting a second opinion on what you’ve written – and feedback from a different perspective – family and friends will be able to point out problem areas that you might not have noticed.

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