Proofreading techniques are one of those skills that you’re going to have to get used to if you’re thinking about embarked on a career as a freelancer.
Working solo can be a liberating experience, but it also means that there’s no one else there to correct your mistakes.
To ensure that you don’t have to spend hours and hours proofing what you write, take a look at these handy techniques.
In this article:
Take Your Time: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Writing is the fun part, and sometimes when things are going well you’ll feel like you’re flying through it. Then comes the laborious part — the proofreading. Sound familiar?
If you want to be able to cruise through proofing then, rather counterintuitively, you need to slow right down. There’s no use in charging blindly ahead if you get to the end and then spot mistakes on your final reading.
Take the time to get it right and you’ll only have to do it once. If haste comes naturally to you here’s a few ways you can slow down:
Take a day off in between writing and proofing
Never set a timeframe for completing it — slow right down and find a natural rhythm
Listen to some slow relaxing music and put your phone on silent
Practice them as often as you can and you’ll notice the difference quicker than you think.
If You’re Not Sure Then Ask
No article dispensing tried and test proofreading advice would be complete without this little commonsense gem.
Just because you’re now a freelancer doesn’t mean that you have to do everything solo. You may work for yourself, but there’s a huge community of writers and editors out there looking to collaborate.
In fact, by forming a few friendships you’ll find you have people who can act as sounding boards when you need someone to open up to.
Not only that, but you can ask them the odd technical or grammatical question. Freelancing is all about learning and growing, so make sure you use the people in your network.
Don’t feel self conscious — they’ll be asking your advice sooner rather than later!
Check the Facts: Do They Ring True?
This is a bit of a controversial one because some people will tell you that proofing should be solely concerned with the structure and grammar of each sentence.
What I would say is that this is all well and good, unless there’s a major flaw in the main argument of the piece you’re proofing. If there’s a fact or statistic that is central to the article then why not do a quick fact check?
This is especially useful if you’re writing for a business that would expect you to flag up anything erroneous that has made it into the final draft.
It doesn’t matter who found the statistic in the first place, if you’re the one to highlight that it may not be right then kudos to you.
Get Plenty of Rest: It Takes Twice as Long When You’re Tired
Ask any writer whether they can work tired just as well as they can when they’re rested and they’ll give a resounding no.
Writing is a purely mental pursuit which means that you’re unlikely to be able to perk yourself up if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep.
Too many new freelancers fall into the trap of trying to be always on. You may think that this impresses your clients.
But all it really does is guarantee that the quality of your work suffers as you gradually approach burnout.
Here’s how you can spot burnout is on the horizon:
- Your mood is quite low and out of character
- You don’t feel excited to work anymore
- Your appetite has gone and you’ve started skipping meals to work longer
If You’re the Author: Pause After Writing
We kind of mentioned this one earlier but it’s really important so I’m going to briefly revisit it. Whether you work for a small company or are just starting out as a freelancer the advice that follows still applies.
Wherever possible you need to take a day off from any given project before you start proofing. This will give you the distance and time for reflection you need to spot the common mistakes that we all make.
Print it Out: Pulling Out Your Pen Speeds Things Up
Have you ever wondered why you make far fewer of the well known common spelling mistakes when you write by hand? It’s because you give yourself the time to think and reflect on what it is that you’re writing.
Writing on paper is often more relaxing than typing, and it certainly feels more natural. If you’re working long hours you’ll also find that it puts significantly less strain on your eyes.
Print out your text and pick up a pen the next time you have a big batch of proofing to get through. You’ll be amazed at how much more relaxing you find the whole process.
About the Author
Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer and a long-term editor at Top Writers Review. She is passionate about finding new ways for people to improve their writing, and about reaching out to the wider writing community. If she were to describe her proofreading style in three words they would be: attention to detail.