How to Proofread Like a Pro

Why Does Proofreading Matter?

Whether you’re working on a professional document, an academic assignment, or the next great American novel, nothing kills your credibility with your reader faster than poor editing. Spending a little extra time polishing your document is worthwhile. But running a simple spell check isn’t enough. While great for catching misspelled words, they won’t catch grammatical errors or improper word choices. For these, and other writing issues, there is no substitute for manual proofreading. But there are great tools available to help you perfect your document. Today, I’m going to outline the process I use, along with some resources to help you proofread like a pro!

As you work through these steps, consider using the Track Changes feature to help you keep track of your changes as you work. To use this tool, click the Track Changes button, on the Review tab, and change the drop down to All Markup. Each time you complete a phase of editing, you’ll review your changes and accept or reject them.

Read Your Document – Out Loud

Reading your document aloud is a great way to catch missing words, repetitive words, and missing punctuation. This also helps catch issues with the flow of your document.

Do this yourself by reading the document, from your screen, or use the Read Aloud tool. The tool picks up reading from wherever you place your cursor. It also allows you to pause, back up, or move ahead. As you catch mistakes, pause the tool to make your updates. Then restart the tool to hear your updates.

Use the Track Changes tool to track the changes you make. When you’ve finished reading your document, review your changes a second time and accept or reject them, using the buttons.


Print a Hard Copy

After you’ve completed your first pass through, reading aloud, the next step in our process is to print the document. Believe it or not, you read differently on a screen verses in hard copy. You’ll need room to make notes of changes you want to make. So set your paragraph spacing to ‘double’. The extra room between lines not only leaves you room to make notes but helps you focus on each line, making any remaining mistakes easier to catch.

Use a pen or pencil for noting any corrections and a highlighter to make the line that needs correcting easier to identify when you’re imputing your corrections later. Once again, I recommend using the Track Changes tool as you’re imputing corrections. When you’re finished review them for acceptance or rejection.

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Use an Editing Tool

There are several editing tools available. These tools are primarily for catching wordiness and other issues in your writing. When you run the editing tool through your work, it will suggestion changes to improve readability and make your writing more concise. They operate similarly to the Track Changes tool.

So why not just start and end with an editing tool? While excellent tools, editors are just that. Tools. There is no replacement for manual editing. It’s still necessary to review the tool’s suggestions to be sure they make sense.

However, there are two I recommend you check out.

The first is Grammarly. Grammarly offers a variety of options for using their tool. They offer a desktop app you can download. Write your document in the app or import an existing document. The desktop app does have a file size limit of 4 MB so it’s not ideal for longer documents. For those, you’ll want to download the plug-in for your work processor. Once downloaded and activated, you’ll have a Grammarly tab on your tool bar, allowing you to use the tool on a document of any size. If you post a lot to social media or for blog posts, use the plug-in for your web browser, to help catch mistakes before you post. And best of all, it’s free!

The second option I recommend is WordRake. This tool is similar to Grammarly in that it is an editing tool and can be installed as a plug-in on your work processor, like Word. WordRake offers a free trial but you will have to purchase a license to continue using it.

Read Your Document Aloud – Again

Seriously?! Read it aloud again?! Yes. Believe it or not, there may still be a few mistakes in your document. And you should review your document one more time to be sure you’re happy with the changes.


More Tools and Resources

For more helpful editing tips and tricks, I recommend checking out Sivakumar Kannan‘s Master Class on Skillshare. The course takes about three hours to complete and walks you through a step by step process, using a a piece of blog content.

If you’re serious about proofreading, having a few resource guides is a smart investment. I recommend:

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission.

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