To err is human – to proofread is to be a good writer: Seven effective proofreading hints

Don’t you just hate it when you have slaved over a piece of writing for hours, printed it out – only to find an error embedded somewhere in the text? Perhaps it was a typo, spelling error or glaring grammatical boo-boo.

Here is a list of seven very effective hints on doing away with those errors – or at least minimizing them:

  1. Give it away: As writers, we get too close to what we are writing. As we proofread we tend to read what we intended to write, rather than what we actually wrote. Get a trusted friend or family member to read through it. I often ask my wife; she can be meticulously severe on my writing. And that’s what you want – not someone who says, “Very nice,” but doesn’t want to offend you by pointing out the fifty three glaring errors you’ve overlooked.
  2. Let it sleep for a while: If you do not have a pressing deadline to meet, let the piece of writing sleep for a while. Come back to after a few hours, days or weeks. Fresh eyes will see errors that were hidden when you first wrote the piece.
  3. Have an audience of one: Read your writing aloud to yourself. Or to the dog, cat or canary – whoever. If you stumble over a phrase or sentence when reading aloud, so will your readers. If something doesn’t quite make sense to your ears, you will surely lose your readers at that point.
  4. Writer – know thyself: Be aware of weaknesses in your writing style, spelling abilities and grasp of grammar. Focus particularly on those weaknesses until you master them or you will be their slave forever. I have to be particularly careful of the spelling of some words because they almost always trip me up. Get a good dictionary.
  5. Turn down the volume: Sure – some writers can produce wonderful prose with the stereo blaring in the background, or the television on, or five screaming children running riot through the house. Some have no choice. I know I work best when there are few distractions and a minimum of noise. I know I can write in a busy, noisy environment – I was an elementary school teacher for thirty five years after all! My best writing, however, comes from a calm and quiet environment with few distractions.
  6. Print and peruse: Proofreading on a computer monitor is a very difficult task. Print out a hard copy and proofread that; you’ll find it easier to seek out those errors. Get a red pen and go to work.
  7. Play it again Sam: Well…maybe not. But it is important to read your work over and over and over again until you are sure it is free of errors.

Good writing.

PS: I’m hoping someone will proofread this for me; my favourite television programme is on in a few minutes. So much for those distractions!

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered another great article on proofreading called “The Impotence of Proofreading.” Read at your peril – there are deliberate errors embedded in the text.


5 Responses to “To err is human – to proofread is to be a good writer: Seven effective proofreading hints”

  1. Carolyn says:

    Did you purposely omit a word in Hint 2?

  2. Trevor says:


    Well spotted Carolyn.

    I guess it just goes to prove the point – reread the piece – then reread it again. Then get someone else to read it.

    Thanks for being very graceful in your question. My face is red for not having read it thoroughly. It was not done on purpose.

  3. […] final stage is proofreading. In this stage I will check every letter, every word, every punctuation mark and make sure […]

  4. Kareem says:

    I believe what you published was very logical.
    But, what about this? what if you typed a catchier post title?
    I am not suggesting your information is not good., but what if you
    added a title to possibly grab people’s attention? I mean To err is human – to proofread is to be a good writer: Seven effective proofreading hints – Trevor’s Writing is kinda plain.
    You might glance at Yahoo’s front page and note how they create article titles to grab viewers interested. You might try adding a video or a related pic or two to grab readers interested about everything’ve got
    to say. Just my opinion, it would bring your posts a little livelier.

  5. […] To err is human – to proofread is to be a good writing: 7 effective proofreading hints […]