In this post, Writers Write reveals simple proofreading tricks to improve any manuscript or draft.
Every great article, every successful piece of copywriting owes part of its glory to proofreading. Writers don’t just write the perfect thing each time. It has to be polished and refined, often more than once.
I’ve written over a million words, and learned some things about effective and fast proofreading.
Here are some of the best proofreading tricks if you want to be the keyboard cowboy (or girl) with the quickest draw.
8 Proofreading Tricks (That Save Valuable Time)
1. Read Backwards
I know many professional proofreaders who choose to read backwards, from the page’s end to the beginning. Spelling errors and grammar flaws tend to stand out more, and the proofreader gets to slow down their gaze.
Reading forward, as usual, lets the brain take shortcuts where small mistakes don’t yell out, but hide.
Optical illusions can fool the eyes and mind, which works in a similar way to a quick-scanning proofreader: when a manuscript feels like a hall of mirrors and things don’t look right any longer, change your perspective.
2. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are just fantastic.
There are the basics, like these, and more advanced ones too:
- CTRL + A (Select All)
- CTRL + B (Bold)
- CTRL + C (Copy)
- CTRL + X (Cut)
- CTRL + V (Paste)
- CTRL + F (Find)
- CTRL + SHIFT + V (Paste Special Formatting)
Shortcuts are just that: shortcuts. Learn more of them, and you have one more speed advantage above writers who didn’t.
3. Replace All
The ‘Find & Replace’ option on most word processors can be an editor’s saving grace. If there are 500 mentions of the same mistake to find (and it happens!), a simple keyboard shortcut can eliminate the tedious task of finding every occurrence.
As a cautionary note, use of this shortcut does not reduce the need for careful reading. At worst, the ‘Find & Replace’ function can create other, small mistakes like deleted formatting marks.
Trust in the ‘Find & Replace’ option, but also double-check its results.
4. Change Size or Fonts
When writing and submitting, use the accepted (or agreed) font for the publication.
When you are digitally proofreading, however, you have the advantage of change on your side.
Choose a comfortable size and font, one where you are more likely to see mistakes that stand out. Every professional has fonts they love, and fonts they hate, and many forget that they can change it.
It’s your playground, as long as you remember to change the font back to the appropriate one before its submission.
5. Proof On Paper
A screen isn’t the same as paper, and it has nothing to do with nostalgia. Paper reading can sometimes also force the eyes to slow down, and to not skip over mistakes.
Court proofreaders, who pride themselves on accuracy, often prefer their corrections the traditional way. Done on paper, with corrections scanned and sent back to them.
When fatigue sets in (or a document just seems more complex), paper proofreading can sometimes help.
Remember to get your paper from the most environmentally responsible brands.
6. Digital Corrections
Digital corrections are a possible advantage in a digital world.
The digital world lets you do things paper wouldn’t. Change perspective, zoom in, or scrawl in a quick side note.
Word processors (and PDF editors) give a proofreader this freedom. It can make things much easier for your clientele, too.
If you proofread for someone else, always ask which format their corrections are preferred in.
7. Online Collaboration
While on the topic of digital proofreading, online collaboration software can make discussions between writer-reader-client seamless.
Skype is almost old news these days, with superior software like Basecamp and Trello to administrate a group’s tasks. Google Drive and Dropbox also allow for easier back-and-forth file sharing, collaboration, and often proofreading too.
Remain on the same page with everyone, and rope in an online platform for help.
8. Track Changes
If you don’t know how to use track changes, learn fast, because many clients will prefer it. The word processor option will ‘track’ all changes made to a document, and then allow the receiver to either accept, reject, or comment on these changes.
Advanced use of tracking can create an easier proofreading environment, where you know exactly what has been changed.
The Last Word
In this post, Writers Write revealed simple tricks for more effective, faster proofreading. Like the saying says, you’ll only get pudding if you proofread.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:
- 7 Techniques Of The Faustian Story
- Famous Rejection Letters & Their Lessons For Other Writers
- 8 Self-Published Books (That Went Big)
- The Art Of The Complaint Letter
- 6 Bits Of Writing Advice From Authors’ Letters
- The Art Of Writing Fiction With Fewer Settings
- 8 Statistics About The Writing Industry (You Should Know)
- 5 Incredible Story Beginnings & Endings
- 7 Tips For Writing Competitions
- Writing The Vampire Tale