How to Proofread Your Own Work Like an Expert

How to Proofread Your Own Work Like an Expert

By on Oct 14, 2015 in Publishing


You might write the best short story, article or a manuscript, and have no one realize it because good content is nothing if it is riddled with many grammar and spelling mistakes. That is why proofreading is just as important as editing the story. If you make too many grammar and spelling mistakes, the readers will not be able to read it correctly. Many writers and authors advise against proofreading your own work yourself and to get a professional to do it, but proofreading is just the next step in the creation of your book, and as such, you can do it on your own. You will only need to pay attention to a few things first.

1. Read a printed version

Reading a printed out version will help you notice more misspelled words and grammar errors. No matter how much attention you pay, if you’re proofreading on your laptop, you might get distracted, and fall in to the temptation to edit the story again. However, if you’re reading a hard copy, then you might find it easier to focus only on the grammar and spelling errors, instead of worrying about the plot or characterization. After you’re done, when you edit your work on the computer, you will get the opportunity to do another round of proofreading, and that will help you get the best results.

2. Find your read-through method

The goal here is to find the way that enables you to read through your work with enough focus not to miss an error, while not get distracted by the story. But the good thing is that you can read in any manner you want. For example, some writers say that reading a page backwards, starting from the last sentence and working upwards to the first sentence on the page helps them find more mistakes, while others read the sentences in one paragraph in reverse order. No matter which method you choose, however, you have to pay attention to…

3. Long sentences

And especially pay attention to sentences that are constructed by many sections and contain numerations. Even if the pace in that section of your book is slow and allows longer sentences, you need to find those that are really long. If a sentence is too long, it might be difficult to follow, especially if you’re numerating more than three things. Find those sentences and break them down into shorter, clearer sentences to ensure the reader doesn’t get tired trying to follow them.

4. Take notes

Make sure to take notes while you proofread. Mark down the words you use the most, and try to replace them with their synonyms where you can. Make note of your most common mistakes. For example: if you tend to write “they’re” when you mean “their”, note it down. Be aware of your common mistakes and typos, because that will make it easier to spot them. Additionally, if you’re unsure of the spelling of some words, write them down, and look them up – but later. Don’t look up words in the dictionary (or online) as you are reading through your work. That will only make it easier for you get distracted and lose your focus.

5. Stay focused

Staying focused throughout the proofreading process is very important. If you find your thoughts drifting away, it might be better to stop, take a break, and come back later. Proofreading is a lot more mechanical than it seems – you’re simply looking for misspelled words and grammar errors. After a while, it can get boring, which is why stopping for a break is better than pushing through to the end. If you trudge through your work, be it a short story, or a very long novel, while you might proofread, you might not proofread effectively, and therefore your effort would be for nothing. It might take you a bit longer to proofread if you stop every time you lose focus. However, it’s worth it, because this way you will be certain that the proofreading has been effective.

Image credit: Brent Hellickson on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.


    1 Comment

  1. Hi Georgina,

    I’m huge on reading my work out loud. Fab way to hear errors that may go unnoticed by the eyes. Super insights here.


    Ryan Biddulph

    October 19, 2015


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