How many times has this happened to you: you write a post, read it through seventeen times, hit “publish,” and then immediately spot an error in the published post?
If it never has, lucky you! Would you mind proofreading ours? 🙂
For the rest of us, it’s an all-too-frequent occurrence. We’ve been sharing resources for improving your eye for detail throughout the year, and here are two more tricks to try today.
Part of proofreading is being able to slow down and focus enough to stop your brain from correcting typos or filling in gaps before you notice them. Reading your work backward forces you to stop and look at each individual word in a way you can’t otherwise — it’s great for catching those final spelling errors.
Change your font.
Similarly, things that cause you to look at your writing in a new light also slow your brain down. Changing your font (or your font’s size/color) only takes a click of the mouse, but transforms your words. A mistake you might have skimmed over becomes unmissable when it’s 30 points high or bright red.
Sometimes, finding that last gaffe means having to trick your brain into noticing it — these are two simple ways to do it that anyone can try, no special tools needed.
If you think you’ve mastered the intricate art of proofreading or just want another way to practice, a few minutes of Googling unearths lots of proofreading exercises and tests for all reading and comprehension levels.
To save you those few minutes — more time for proofreading! — here are some to try today. Focus on the aspect of proofing you find the trickiest, or test your general proofing abilities:
- Separate your there from your they’re: pick out the commonly confused words in these passages.
- Gamify your proofreading with Portland Proof’s interactive proofreading challenge. Can you beat today’s top score?
- Bring your subjects and verbs into perfect harmony by identifying the disagreements in this exercise.
- Improve your proofreading and your reading list with proofreading exercises using classic works of literature.
You can also find exercises for a range of grammar issues, along with general proofreading/typo identification, at the Dalton State University’s Writing Lab.
Practice makes for perfect proofing!
Very few of us are able to churn out perfectly error-free writing every time — we’re all constantly editing and proofreading, and many of us are on the lookout for tools and tips to help. (After all, that’s why you use After the Deadline!)
Colleges and universities are great resources for editing and proofing. Many of them have dedicated writing centers for those very purposes, and many of those centers publish online resources that are accessible to the public.
Here are a few we think are especially useful:
- Colorado State University’s Writing Studio has a wide range of tips, from how to tailor your writing to your audience to how to track down every last typo. There’s also a print-friendly version, if you prefer to read hard copies or want every resource in a single document for easy skimming.
- The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has a handy quick-reference guide to help you develop a proofreading strategy. It’s also a test — the guide contains seven errors. Can you spot them all? Take a second look, and then check out the edited version.
- The University of Wisconsin – Madison Writing Center publishes a writers’ handbook that lays out simple techniques for improving your proofing and answers common grammar questions. Confused by semicolons? Not sure about your conjunctive adverb? They can help.
You don’t have to go back to school to take advantage of these helpful resources!
Tools like After the Deadline are a great safety net, but you’ll still want to make sure your writing is clear and grammatically correct. Keep upping your grammar game with help from these three sites:
Daily Writing Tips has posts on everything from common grammar errors to homonyms (their, they’re, there) to rules for writing numbers, and beyond. It’s a great one-stop-shop to find answers to common writing questions, as well as the more obscure.
Grammar Girl dishes the dirt on grammar issues large (avoiding the passive voice) and small (knelt, or kneeled?). Best of all, her posts are quick, fun reads.
Apostrophe Abuse is great for a laugh, and for examples of what not to do. If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at a misplaced apostrophe on a flyer or billboard, this blog’s for you.
After the Deadline is a great safety net, but your own critical eye is also an important tool to hone — that’s why we offer proofreading tips along with helpful software. In this post, we want to highlight one of our favorite proofreading methods: reading out loud.
How many times has this happened to you? You draft a new post. It goes through several big revisions, and then endless tweaks (sometimes back to its original wording) until you’re as satisfied as you can be. You give it a last once-over for typos, find none, and send it on its way… only to get a note from readers about typos. You vow to be more vigilant the next time, yet it happens again.
Why? Your brain is skimming over the errors. You’ve been looking at the words for hours and know exactly what they’re supposed to say, so your brain makes sure that’s what you see when you read.
To get your overachieving brain to notice the errors, you’ve got to slow it down. That’s where reading aloud comes in: when you’re reading aloud, sounding out each word as you go, your brain is forced to consider each word independently in a way that doesn’t happen when you’re reading silently.
The next time you need to make absolutely sure your work is typo free, make sure you’re home alone, close the door, and give it a try (and then run After the Deadline as a final check).