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!
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).
This add-on has all the After the Deadline features. You can enable the style checker options you use in the preferences and you can ignore errors to prevent them from coming up.
Links of interest:
- Download After the Deadline for Firefox
- View the documentation
- Visit the homepage: http://firefox.afterthedeadline.com
I see that the After the Deadline demonstration for WordCamp NYC has been posted. This short five-minute demonstration covers the plugin and its features.
Before you watch this video, can you find the error in each of these text snippets?
There is a part of me that believes that if I think about these issues, if I put myself through the emotional ringer, I somehow develop an immunity for my own family. Does writing a book about bullying protect your children from being bullied? No. I realize that this kind of thinking is completely ridiculous.’’
[Op-Ed] … Roberts marshaled a crusader’s zeal in his efforts to role back the civil rights gains of the 1960s and ’70s — everything from voting rights to women’s rights.
The success of Hong Kong residents in halting the internal security legislation in 2004, however, had an indirect affect on allowing the vigil here to grow to the huge size it was this year.
These examples come from the After Deadline blog, When Spell-Check Can’t Help. You can watch the video to learn how After the Deadline can help and what the errors are. You can also try these out at http://www.polishmywriting.com.
You can also view the WCNYC session on how embed After the Deadline into an application.
I often get emails from folks asking for support for different platforms. I love to help folks and I’m very interested in solving a problem. I don’t have the expertise in all the platforms folks want AtD to support. Since it’s my occupation, I plan to keep improving AtD as a service, but here is my wish list of places where I’d like to see AtD wind up:
I’d like to meet Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia. First because I love Wikipedia and it tickles me pink that so much knowledge is available at my finger tips. I’m from the last generation to grow up with hard bound encyclopedias in my home.
Since the service will be open source there won’t be an IP cost necessarily. The only barriers are AtD support in the MediaWiki software and server side costs. Fortunately I’ve learned a lot about scaling AtD from working with WordPress.com and given a number of edits/hour and server specs, I could come up with a good guess about how much horsepower is really needed.
I’d love to write the MediaWiki plugin myself but unfortunately I’m so caught up trying to improve the core AtD product that this is beyond my own scope. If anyone chooses to pick this project up, let me know, I’ll help in any way I can.
Online Office Suites and Content Management Systems
There are a lot of people cutting and pasting from Word to their content management systems. There are many web applications either taking over the word processor completely or for niche tasks. For this shift to really happen these providers need to offer proofreading tools that match what the user would get in their word processor. None of us are supposed to depend on automated tools but a lot of us do.
Abiword, KWord, OpenOffice, and Scribus
It’s a tough sell to say a technology like AtD belongs in a desktop word processor. I say this because AtD consumes boatloads of memory. I could adopt it to keep limited amounts of data in memory and swap necessary stuff from the disk. If there isn’t a form of AtD suitable for plugging into these applications, I hope someone clones the project and adapts it to these projects. If someone chooses to port AtD to C, let me know, I’ll probably give a little on my own time and will gladly answer questions.