With our phones and our word processors getting ever more eager to correct any mistakes they see us making, it might seem like writing these days is a foolproof pursuit. But when you realize that entire sites exist online to make fun of the gaffes that programmed editors make, you should also realize that proofreading is still a very valuable and very human skill.
Unsure how to proofread a document? Follow these proofreading techniques and tips to ensure (not insure) that your (not you're) writing is error-free:
- Proofread in a distraction-free space. Don't try to multitask, don't have your phone on – and don't listen to music with words, as that will compete for attention from the language centers of your brain.
- Change the context. If you've written your work on the computer, try changing the font, printing it out, or reading it aloud. Doing one of these forces you to see your work anew, and that helps you spot mistakes.
- Know your homonyms. Most people communicate in speech more than writing , so they don't usually worry about words that sound the same but might be spelled differently and have different meanings. Watch for blunders with words like accept and except, or capitol and capital, and never confuse an ordinance with ordnance.
- Know your contractions. It's is different than its, and your is different then you're. Their, there and they're are a troublesome, but distinct, trio.
- Watch the punctuation. Focusing on spelling and grammar may take up the bulk of your time, but be sure to watch punctuation marks, which may be small and overlooked.
- Read backward. When you're reading forward, you anticipate the structure of the sentence and complete it in your mind. This can make you miss errors. Read backward, and you won't be able to anticipate.
- Peer review. A friend or co-worker who's never encountered the document is more likely to catch anything wrong or awkward than the person who's been working on it. Get someone to look over it, and help them out on their projects as well!
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