Proofreading

Updated: Nov 7, 2016

Proofreading presupposes checking a paper for spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Proofreading concerns itself with the surface aspects of language. Any proofreading definition should be inclusive of all of the surface language and presentation errors that a person could commit.

Proofreading

It is important for people to ask themselves: what is proofreading? If they aren’t able to get a really concise definition of it and understand it at a conceptual level, then it is going to be that much harder for them to carry out the necessary tasks. Proofreading could be defined as going through a piece of text in order to locate and repair errors of punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Proofreading concerns itself with the surface aspects of language. Any proofreading definition should be inclusive of all of the surface language and presentation errors that a person could commit.

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The Difference Between Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing are often viewed similarly, but they are very different parts of any publishing process. They also ought to be very different parts of the draft writing process. Proofreading ought to be done at the end of the writing process, as the final stage of writing before a draft is finally completed. Editing must be done earlier in order to perfect the document in advance.

Editing deals with fundamental language usage and communication. Editors are going to look at word choice, whether or not a document uses too much passive voice, and whether or not there are too many words used in general. Editing is concerned with trying to improve the content of a given piece of writing in a way that relates to the quality of the writing and not just its presentation.

Proofreading Fundamental Strategies

One of the most important proofreading tips involves timing. It really only makes sense to do proofreading when the document is otherwise ready. When the document has been thoroughly edited and evaluated for fundamental language errors, then it is time to proofread. Proofreading during the writing process and before the editing process can actually be somewhat redundant. People might wind up correcting a sentence for spelling errors that is just going to be deleted anyway. There is no point in correcting a misspelled word that was just going to be removed due to excessive wordiness. No one should spend too much time proofreading, and timing is everything for the people who want to avoid that.

One of the ways to speed up the proofreading process is to look for patterns in one’s own writing or in writing in general. Some people are going to be prone to making similar mistakes over and over again. Some grammatical errors are more common than others, and the same goes for punctuation, spelling, and typing errors. People who are good at recognizing these patterns are going to be able to correct these mistakes much more easily.

The Purpose of Proofreading

For better or for worse, people do have a tendency to dismiss the value of almost any piece of writing on the basis of a few spelling errors or other minor surface language errors. People who want to make sure that a given piece of writing that they have created is treated seriously are going to need to make sure that they have eliminated all of the most obvious surface errors in language, especially if they have already gone to all of the efforts to get rid of the more fundamental language errors in the form of editing.

It is also important to proofread because writing that is not fixed in this manner is often going to be harder to read. People who are well-read are going to read by word recognition. When lots of the words look different from the ones that their eyes will scan over quickly, they are going to be forced to read the document much more slowly. The concentration that they should be using in order to take in the content of the writing is going to be focused on just trying to understand the words. The situation is going to create a very frustrating reading experience, which is why it is so important for people to eliminate the errors that will complicate the reading process.

Individuals who are having editors or professors grade or evaluate their papers are going to want these people to be happy, and they’re only going to irritate them if they force them to read something that is filled with unsightly errors. Naturally, some professors and teachers will deduct points for spelling errors and other surface language errors, so students are going to have a clear vested interest in making sure that these errors never make it into a final draft of any submission. Some professional editors will reject all writing submissions that have any surface language errors in them as well, making proofreading an important part of getting a piece of writing accepted.

The Process of Proofreading a Paper

First, people are going to need to take note of all the different errors that they will need to check for, or they might end up proofreading for spelling errors but not for punctuation errors. Once they have familiarized themselves with everything that they need to do during the proofreading process, they can start picking every sentence apart for the potential surface language errors that might be there. While reading each sentence, they should look for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors as well as typing mistakes.

Once the paper or piece of writing has been proofread the first time, it is a good idea to read through it a second time, with the exact same proofreading process. People who have missed a few errors the first time through should manage to find them during the second reading. Depending upon the nature of the situation and the importance of the piece of writing, it might be a good idea to do a third reading.

Proofreading Tips

TIP 1. It is important not to rely on spell-checkers entirely. Some of them might misdiagnose words as misspelled based on the limitations to their dictionaries. Some of them might not pick up on misused words.

TIP 2. Certain words are more likely to be typed incorrectly than others based on the position of the letters on the keyboard. For instance, the word ‘the’ is often typed in as ‘teh’ for the people who are typing very quickly. People should try to keep in mind which words these are, and they should scrutinize these words more carefully when they appear in any text.

TIP 3. People who are prone to misspelling certain words should try to keep in mind which words these are, and they might want to avoid using them altogether. Otherwise, they should just keep their eyes on them.

Getting a rhythm going is an important part of a proofreading, which is not the most exciting writing task that is out there. People who try to view the task in a mechanical way will be that much more likely to get through it.

Do’s and Don’ts of Proofreading

- Do repeat the proofreading process more than once.
- Don’t proofread during the writing and editing process.
- Do look for grammatical errors, typing errors, spelling errors, and punctuation errors.
- Don’t proofread only certain sections of the document at the exclusion of others.
- Do pay attention to words that are frequently typed incorrectly, misspelled, or misused.
- Don’t spend too much time on the proofreading process.

Proofreading is a very rewarding part of writing. In many ways, it is easier than other parts of the writing process. People will do this after they have already finished with many of the trickier parts of the writing process, so it is almost a reward for having finished the tougher parts of any assignment. While some people find proofreading tedious, it is easy for people to fall into something of a proofreading rhythm, which is going to make it that much easier for people to get this essential task out of the way.

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