Best Practices for Proofreading

There are common practices for proofreading a manuscript or any written work that are necessary and important in getting your work ready for publication whether you are self-publishing or submitting it to a traditional publisher. By carefully proofreading your manuscript, it will give your book a professional look, and provide a quality impression from your readers and publishers (Get an expert to perfect your writing).

It is worthy to note that proofreading your own manuscript is not an easy thing to successfully pull off. The reason is that you have probably spent months or maybe even years writing your manuscript, and as a result, you are very familiar with the text. This makes it difficult to spot your own mistakes because you will see what you think you have written, instead of what is really there. Below are some of the top proofreading tips that can make the process a lot easier.

Man reading a book using a magnifying glass

Leave your manuscript aside for at least a week after you finish writing: the purpose of this is to get you some distance from your work so that you can develop fresh eyes, making it easier for you to be spot errors that you didn’t see before.

Begin With “spell-check”, However, Don’t Rely on it: Spell-check can be very helpful when proofreading your manuscript, but it will not catch some mistakes. For example, “who’s” instead of whose or  “to” instead of “too.” Spell-check will also give you incorrect advice sometimes. At the end of the day, you will still have to read through your manuscript (9 Spelling and Grammar Mistakes Spell Check Won’t Catch).

Change your Environment: To get yourself into proofreading mode, you may also want to do your proceeding in a different place from where you write. For instance, rather than use your desk, try working outside your room or study, a coffee shop or library.

Read Slowly: Many people are often in a rush to read through their sentences or paragraphs. Proofreading shouldn’t be done in a rush, take your time to focus on every sentence and word.

Change the Layout of your Manuscript: By changing how your document looks, you will be able to look or see it a different way. Doing this will help you catch more mistakes. You can even print out the whole manuscript and proofread the hard-copy. If you cannot afford to print out the whole thing, you can try other practical methods like changing the font type, color, and size. Another thing you can do is set the line spacing to double.

Read the Manuscript out loud: When you read your manuscript silently, your brain will automatically function as an autocorrect tool that reads what should be there, not what the page actually says. By reading out loud, you give yourself much more control, and your reading will ultimately slow down, that way you will be able to spot what is really written, and not what you believe should be written down. Doing this will help you discover missing words and give your dialogue a more realistic feel to it.

Use the Search Function: For every mistake you find, you can use your word processor ‘find-and-replace’ or ‘find’ feature to make sure that you did not repeat the same mistake anywhere else in the manuscript. This feature can also be used to replace double spaces with single spaces.

Do Your Proofreading First Thing in the Morning: Proofreading requires a lot of concentration. Therefore, it is best to do it when your brain is still fresh and not after a long day.

Take Breaks Regularly: Because proofreading requires one to be intensely focused, you can not afford to do it all day. Give your eyes and brain a few minutes of rest. It is best advisable you take at least an hour rest. Stand up from your desk or wherever you are working and rest a little.

Polish or Go Over your Grammar Rules: If you are not familiar with the basic rules of grammar and punctuation, then proofreading will be nothing other than a guesswork for you. Make sure you have brushed up on all the important rules of grammar before you begin (Do you need your grammar and punctuation fixed?).

Perform a second pass: This should be done especially when you find a lot of mistakes in your manuscript. You can perform separate passes for different proofreading problems.

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By Bizhan Romani

Dr. Bizhan Romani has a PhD in medical virology. When it comes to writing an article about science and research, he is one of our best writers. He is also an expert in blogging about writing styles, proofreading methods, and literature.

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