Wonder, what make some more effective proofreaders? How experts scrutinize the article to eliminate errors?
Demanding NO necessary degree with 4.25% annual rise in proofreading jobs. The biggest plus, the respect they garner. Proofreaders save publishing house from million-dollar typo errors and embarrassment.
Effective proofreading is a skill NOT a born talent. It comes with the right approach. Every proofreader follows certain steps but he rarely talks about it. I want to debug the secret in the easiest manner with live examples.
Read the latest coverage of No degree Learn, how to effectively proofread articles.
Before I go deep, I would like to tell you about my proofreading journey.
Till now, I’ve proofread seven Academic journals for two international university doctorates. In this blog, I’ve formulated my proofreading process into eight actionable steps to make you an efficient proofreader.
And trust me, it has little to do with experience. It is about following the right strategy and knowing the proofreading definition well.
What proofreading means?
Scribbr said this aptly, “it is a process of reviewing the final draft of a piece of writing to ensure consistency and accuracy in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting”.
Mostly I’ve seen freelancers performing ‘copy editing’ instead of ‘proofreading’. They rephrase the entire sentence to their understanding. I call it over-exercising the discretionary powers and benefiting none.
Trust me! Author revises the doc several times before they sent you the final draft.
Rephrasing destroys the author’s original tone. Also, a line is written to have a certain impact. Rephrasing that, the impact extinguishes. I would be telling more, how you can preserve the tone while proofreading. So, keep learning.
Before I jump into the steps, let me tell you free proofreading tools. They are the helping hands in my proofreading tasks. And surely, you’ll find them useful.
Using Free Online Proofreading Tool
I won’t be recommending you 10s tools for you to juggle around. I want you to limit with 2 Tools.
- Google Docs
No other editor tool needed. No investment required. Both have FREE versions available with NO daily usage limits.
And with Grammarly, I mean judicial use. I’ll tell you more on that later.
Regarding writing software, I prefer Microsoft Word.
For proofreading in MS Word, you need to go Track Changes in the Review tab. With this, you can track your edits. Compare the edits with the original work. And the same edits can be viewed by your client. More helpful features of MS Word to discuss. So, scroll further.
Simple Proofreading Tip
Proofread articles in the silent Atmosphere
Timing – Before you start
Although, it is a matter of personal taste. But when I’m proofreading an article, I close my room, sipping down my brew. Immerse myself in understanding the tone and expressions used by the author.
I can’t proofread a research article when noises such as horn, vehicle or a random friend call without a CTA.
Also, I found one article on that. Wisestep states, “many professional editors and proofreaders prefer doing the task at silent atmosphere”.
There you have it. Prefer proofreading in the silent atmosphere.
Sip coffee while you proofread
Timing – As you like it
Frequency – As you like it
Coffee is said to be the writer’s best friend. Medically, coffee increases your metabolic activities by 12%. So, drives the brain to stay alert while proofreading articles.
Some writers drink tea. That’s fine. It is a matter of preference.
Now, all things are clear. Door closed, open the doc, and brew prepared. I began scrutinizing the doc.
Step-wise Proofreading Strategies
Step 1: Just read the doc. No rush
Timing – your first time reading
In this, the crucial part is to skip the thought about picking mistakes. Read it like a newspaper. Keep yourself away from intervention of tool.
Figure out what the author is conveying.
Proofreading TIP – Your job is to keep the author’s tone alive. If he prefers using ‘Moreover’ then use ‘Moreover’. Don’t replace it with ‘Also’ or ‘Adding further’.
Error 1 – voice loss in the context.
To spot that, read the first and last words in the sentence. And then read the sentence as a whole. If it doesn’t sound well, you have to edit that part.
Error 2 – Inconsistent font.
Fonts used should be consistent. And remember, NO editor is bothered about the font consistency. That’s the proofreader’s task. Example:
The former link is in italics while the later one is in regular. You’ve to convert the former one back to regular.
Error 3 – Incorrect page number
Always check the page number is correct in the journal.
Also, if no page numbering there in the journal then don’t number it by yourself. You can leave a comment for the author, telling him to add page number.
Step 2: Start detecting the common Proofreading errors
Time: In your second reading.
You got the instinct that how the author writes. It’s time to scrutinize the article. And since you’ve read it once, you would be more confident with the edits.
Common Proofreading errors you’ll find:
Error 1 – Incorrect word usage.
The reason is we use these words so frequently, we lose their exact meaning.
Famous Example – affect Vs effect, specially Vs especially, common Vs ordinary.
Live Example –
Here, author used “power difference societies” but the correct wording is “power distance societies”.
There are two mistakes in a single line. It should be ‘long-term’ and ‘effect’ wrt the context.
This one my favorite. The author used ‘guest house’ but it should be ‘guesthouse’.
Now, it may sound a too professional skill to detect words. But it isn’t. Whenever I’m confused with the word usage, I search on GOOGLE. Read out the sentences using that word. This gives me a better idea. And also, your experience helps.
Proofreading TIP – You can use Quora. Read the relevant questions to know the exact word usage.
Error 2 – Not capitalizing the proper nouns.
You must be clear with proper nouns. A Google search will help you with this. E.g. Great Recession is a famous case study. So, it should be capitalized.
Proofreading TIP – a sign of good proofreading to leave comments about your edits. It helps you in justifying the work and builds a good rapport with the client. I suggest you the same.
Error 3 – Undefined Acronyms
Pay attention that all acronyms are fully defined in-text when they are first time introduced. And well enclosed in the parenthesis. Once it is defined, it is not needed to define it again.
Although Scribbr suggests, if you use the acronym after a long gap in bulky research work, it is advisable to define it again. It is said for the ease of the reader than a rule. Moreover, a proofreader has to decide, he should define the acronym again or not.
Error 4 – outdated abbreviation list
Trust me, this is the most common proofreading error. According to intelligent editing, only 2% of articles have an updated abbreviation list. I hope you got the importance.
Proofreading TIP – It is not a proofreader’s task to make the abbreviation list. It is the author’s job. You can leave a comment, what abbreviations he missed, so the author can add that.
Error 5 – using contraction in the academic journal
Academic writing is formal writing. So, usage of don’t, can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t be replaced by the do not, cannot, and so forth.
PS – I want my readers to get things quick and crisp. So, I used contraction while writing this blog.
Error 6 – To check the punctuations in the bullet.
Nowadays academic articles are written in bullet points. They are easier to read but have a set of punctuation rules to follow.
Bullets are used for two cases.
Understand with an example.
If you are wondering, how I designed it, I used Photoshop for that. Yups! I’m a graphic designer too. You can read my custom youtube thumbnail article to understand how I design thumbnails. Moving on!
- Sentences are written in bullets.
Then either it should end with ‘.’ (period) or ‘;’ (semicolon) at the end of every sentence or any symbol should be avoided.
Error 7 – Incorrect authors’ name and facts cited
In academic writing, authors take different researchers’ name in proving their claim. Now, you have to Google every name cited, verifying it is correctly spelt.
With Facts, here’s the example:
Proofreading TIP – Google is the best teacher. Verify the facts from a simple search. And if it is incorrect, don’t edit. Just place a comment, author will do the job!
Error 8 – Incorrect style of headings and title.
This is slightly difficult. So, I always suggest you do it in the end.
“Remember Title is NOT in-text.”
The title is written to evoke curiosity. So, they need not follow grammar rules.
One rule is mandated: capitalize its last word.
Apart from these eight mistakes, other common proofreading errors are:
- Comma usage
- Oxford comma
- Singular/plural usage of word
- Usage of semi-colon, colon, and em dash
- Period when using an abbreviation
- Removing Taboo words
- Removing weaker words
- Converting Passive to Active voice (minor editing)
- Correcting the Dangling Modifier
- Quotation following the style (APA/MLA/Harvard/Chicago)
- Using the dollar/euro sign in prefix of the fiat value.
- Parenthesis closing
- Block Text
- Citations following the style (APA/MLA/Harvard/Chicago)
Now, I won’t be wasting your time and teaching you about grammar rules. You can check online proofreading courses or blogs from:
- Pro Writing Aid,
- Smart Editing, and
- Scribbr blogs.
Among all, I find, Scribbr blogs the best!
Since, there are so many errors, it is easy to miss out one. For this, proofreaders have a checklist to keep them organized. I’ve talked about it in my 8th step.
PS – We are NOT even half-way through. Still, lots of errors to fix.
Step 3: Using MS-Doc features
Time – within your second reading
Set your Proofreading language in the preferred dialect.
Normally, academic journal proofreading is done in UK, USA or Australia English dialect. Your author/client will tell you at which dialect he wants.
For setting your proofreading language:
Go to Language option in the review tab. There you find “set proofreading language”
Now set the language to the desired dialect.
Error 1 – rectify the dialect deviation
E.g., ‘color Vs colour’, ‘center Vs centre’.
Error 2 – Double spacing
And I have a simple solution to deal with this.
Type ctrl/cmd + F
Now hit the spacebar twice (reflecting double spaces)
MS Word will do find those areas. Remove the extra spaces manually. Don’t automate. I hope you got my point!
Step 4: Using Microsoft Word Voice Assistant
Timing – Third reading.
Reason – You’ve read it twice and familiar what’s written. Now, if you read this again, many mistakes you may skip unknowingly.
The best method I’ve seen is to listen else’s voice. For this, I want you to use speak to text assist. If you haven’t used this before, WATCH this video to get started.
Note – If the speak assist didn’t work, you can troubleshoot here. Trust me, this feature is useful but it can be buggy sometimes.
Now, Select the entire text by pressing ctrl/cmd + A
Click “speak selected text icon”
Microsoft would read it for you, and as many times you like.
With this feature, you can detect these following errors:
Error 1 – inconsistencies with word usage.
This is a slight time-consuming step but worth it. Let’s understand this with examples:
In academic proofreading, the author has used the term ‘bullying prevalence’ then ‘prevalence of bullying’ should be omitted.
Because switching the word phrases confuses the readers.
Error 2 – Eliminating Redundancy.
Eliminating redundancy is confused with shortening the sentences. This isn’t true! You cannot rephrase a sentence in proofreading to make it short.
Remember I told you with rephrasing while defining the term ‘proofreading’.
Now, to eliminate redundancy, STEP 1 gets crucial.
I explain you with an example:
As you read out the proofread sentence, its voice is much stronger.
Proofreading TIP – Prefer active voice
Advantages with Active voice –
- It is more confident in tone. So, leaves a lesser chance for the audience to speculate.
- Active voice sentences are shorter in general. And short sentences are always preferred.
Proofreading TIP 2 – using better vocab
- It helps you substituting many words with one.
- Also, improves the professional tone of your copy.
Error 3 – Eliminate repetition
It is important to eliminate repetition. Else encountering similar words/sentences again, confuses the reader. And also, brings a negative impression.
There are two kinds of repetition you need to eliminate.
A) – Starting sentence with the same word. Common starting words are Also, Now, This, Moreover, Although, etc.
The hardwork lies in the detection.
I use ctrl/cmd + F and input the starting words. Now, I manually check them where it is going repetitive.
Easy to rectify. You have to replace with one, suiting the context.
B) – Restating the complete line which is already been said. I show you with an example:
Kindly, observe the highlighted text. You’ll notice, entire lines are repeated.
To replace that, Kristey Wieben, editor at Scribbr, suggests using phrases ‘explained in para 2’ or ‘explained in chapter 4’.
Proofreading TIP – Now, if lines are repeated by the author intentionally to add stress on that point, then it’s fine. But in the above example, the author was discussing the conditions under which the survey was conducted. So, no need to write twice.
I know there are many short cuts, but again limited with few:
- Double-click on the letter – Selects the word
- Triple-click on the letter – Selects the para containing that letter.
- Ctrl + A/cmd + A – Selects the entire the document.
You can use these techniques in selecting the desired text. Speak Assistant would read that for you.
Sounds Cool, Erh? Let me know in the comments.
Step 5: Reading it backwards
Timing – Your fourth revision
This is the most crucial proofreading tip which most editors suggest.
The biggest enemy in proofreading is familiarity. You read multiple times the same text, your brain gets more familiar with it. And it stiffs the task of catching the mistakes. Now, if you read backwards, the brain gets something new to read. And you find helpful to catch article errors and typos. A picture says a thousand words.
A picture says a thousand words.
You’ll find, reading backwards easier to detect the extra ‘the’ than reading left to right.
Step 6: Minimal use of Grammarly in Proofreading
It is always nice to get a second opinion from an Ai.
What I do with Grammarly?
Error 1 – Article checking
It is common that writers forgot to add an article before the proper noun or adjective they are using.
Example – This is page is filled with article correction. And with journals I proofread, it is very common.
Proofreading TIP – Double cross-check when you encounter an abbreviation.
If you want a solid blog to understand article usage with abbreviations, you can read this. A blog from Scribbr, I highly recommend reading that.
Error 2 – Spell check
I’ve seen even after MS Word spell checker, still spelling mistakes are left. So, Grammarly detects that.
Step 7: Printing out the article
Time – This is your last step
An experiment by the University of Stavanger revealed, “one who reads printed texts retains information better than pdf readers”. The reason given is simplicity in finding the text with hardbound than pdfs.
And retaining text helps to eliminate the inconsistencies.
Also, when I have an article printed, I can flip through its pages. This ease my error finding process. Such comfort is not there in the soft copy.
Caution – Make sure you are printing No markup document NOT the original document.
For this, Go to “Review tab” in MS-Word
There in the track changes, select “No Markup”
You’ll find common proofreading errors such as: unclosed parenthesis, mis-positioning the period with double quotes, etc.
Some people use proofreading marks and symbols. They are the handwritten symbols used to highlight the errors. Particularly used when you are reviewing a printed article. The main purpose of proofreading marks is to help you to stay organized. And remind you what mistakes you highlighted.
Now, you’ve to apply those edits in the word file.
Step 8: Reviewing the proofreading checklist
Time – final check
In the checklist, it contains the common proofreading errors. I quickly review those areas to make sure everything is fine.
You can call it a repeat of Step 2 at 3x speed.
Steps are done. You now know the effective proofreading process.
But the show is not over yet.
There are some best practices for proofreading. And I want to share it with you. To make it easier, I’ve augmented them into Do’s and Don’ts format.
Do’s and Don’ts for Proofreader
1. Taking mild breaks – I take a 5 min walk after every 30 minutes of work. And 30 minutes of music break after 2 hours of work.
2. Work while sipping your coffee – I told you. It is the writer’s best friend. Head to heading simple Proofreading tip.
3. Highlighting the text – I highlight/flag those areas where I can’t understand what’s written. I communicate with my author to know what the highlighted part conveys. After that, I start working on those areas. And this brings me to the next point.
4. Maintain good communication with your author – be it e-mail or text. Remember, it is the author’s work. More than anyone, his satisfaction is the must.
5. Zoom in or changing the fonts – This is a quite standard but effective approach. Changing the interface brings a new pattern. Our brain would get something new to read. Hence, easier to detect errors.
6. Re-reading the confusing text 4-5 times – you can yield what needs to be fixed.
7. You don’t create any new problem. Make sure edits, didn’t distort the table of content order or the flow of the text. 8. Define your work – It is always good to tell your client/author beforehand what you are going to check. This maintains transparency in your working.
1. Don’t over edit – the worst you can do with your copy. You are a proofreader who is responsible for minor edits.
2. Don’t hold the document for too long – focus on those areas where you can edit. Communicate with the author to clear the confusion.
3. Proofreading without understanding – If this is the case, refrain from proofreading. Take a break, freshen up your brain.
4. Avoid lengthening the sentences – Lengthy sentences are tough to understand. In the step 4, I told you about removing redundancy. Look how you can shrink sentences without rephrasing it.
5. Don’t rush – Rushing and racing against the time. This is worst you can do with the article. Author has taken out days to write that piece, you can’t unjust to save few hours. 6. Don’t aim for perfection. At the end we all humans. No copy editor is 100% perfect likewise No proofreader is 100% perfect. Strive to proofread the copy best from your side.
Proofreading is an in-demanding skill in 2020. A career which will last long in publishing houses and as freelancing.
Although, proofreading tips and tricks are present in different blogs. But one gap I observed, they fail to explain which tip to use when. And why we are using the tips. Knowing the implementation of that at the right stage would help you in proofreading articles better.
Effective proofreading skill has a certain process, augmented in steps. In this article, I’ve formulated 8 actionable steps to make the article proofread effectively. Then I shared the Do’s and Don’ts to improve the efficacy of your proofreading.
Now, answering some common FAQs to get you the better idea. Let me know your views in comments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Proofreading is important to ensure the correctness, consistent, and accuracy of the written text. A document of errors, be it academic journal or business email, you lose an opportunity to look professional and polished. In history, a single typo can cost millions and embarrassment to your firm. In such scenes, proofreading is an inevitable step.
Proofreader gets the final draft whereas copy editor gets other than final draft. Proofreader responsible for spell check, grammar check, consistency check, etc. Editor is responsible for paraphrasing, rephrasing lines, etc. Proofreader is concerned with manuscript and layout errors while editor is concerned with manuscript errors only.
Modern usage is Proofreader. But all are correct, says Mark Cochrane. He states all three spellings are the example of the etymological pattern. First people write “proof reader” then hyphenating it. And finally joining the word to “proofreader”. The same concept holds good for ‘proofreading’ word as well.
A proofreader is responsible for the grammar check, spell check, and eliminating redundancy. All these checks I’ve compiled into 7 steps, with live examples. Therefore, making it easier for you to comprehend the process of proofreading.
Proofreaders on Quora answers 2000 to 3000 words per hour. But it varies with the proofreader and his experience. For me, it takes around 10 hours for 2500 words to proofread. I proofread the article six times before I submit.
A good strategy includes having a proofreading checklist. This helps the proofreader to keep their work organized. During the task, proofreaders take short breaks and prefer to work in a peaceful environment.