10 Tips for Proper Proofreading

Not sure if your memory story is as good as it could be? Here are ten proofreading tips that don’t involve a spellchecker.

  1. Concentrate.

    Just like when you’re writing, create an environment that’s conducive to what you want to do. Limit distractions. Listen to music or white noise to help take pressure off your brain. Make sure you’re mentally present and ready to find slip-ups.

  2. Avoid editing while you’re writing.

    When you write creatively, it should also be freely. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or anything else. You can always go back and fix it later.

  3. Print it out.

    Sorry, Mother Earth. Sometimes it’s just easier to proofread when you’re looking at a hard copy.

  4. Look it up.

    If something seems strange when you read it over, do an online search to see if it’s correct! Then you’ll know it for next time.

  5. Sleep on it.

    You’re not productive if you’re tired. If you’ve been proofreading for a long time, take a break. Go on a walk. Make some lunch. Or get a full night’s rest and come back in the morning. When you look at your writing with fresh eyes, it can make all the difference.

  6. Read it out loud.

    Sometimes writing looks great on paper, but when you read it out loud, you start to see all the things you could have done better. Maybe you overused punctuation marks, ordered words strangely, or utilized peculiarly sesquipedalian diction (a weirdly formal choice of words). Even better, give it to another person to read out loud. Which leads us to #7 . . .

  7. Enlist your friends.

    As the saying goes, two is better than one. If your writing isn’t too personal, hand it over to a trusted friend. A second set of eyes can do wonders for proofreading; even if you’ve gone over it over and over on your own, you never know what someone else might catch.

  8. Know yourself.

    If you tend to make a lot of grammatical blunders, make a list of your most common ones. Then go through your text over and over, focusing on finding one type of mistake at a time.

  9. Sdrawkcab ti daer.

    Well, not like that, but—read it backwards! When you read something the correct way, your brain likes to search for meaning in the words, rather than looking at just the words themselves. So start from the end and look at each word by itself, and you’ll be able to find spelling errors more easily.

  10. Stop when you’re done.

    Done is better than perfect. And perfect isn’t always possible. If you’re pressed for time, focus on the big mistakes first and then get the little ones later if you can. So what if it’s not 100% perfect? When all is said and done, the important thing is that you accomplished some writing.

If all else fails, don’t let spelling or grammatical errors keep you from sharing your memories! Your family and friends don’t care if you’re flawless—they care about your story. So go tell it!