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Q&A

How can I catch more errors when I proofread?

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I have a problem where I often proof my own writing and I don't catch all the errors while I am reading through it. I often miss entire words out of sentences or find myself repeating words. I can read a document several times and I catch new errors every time. Eventually, I'll feel like I've caught everything, but I find out after I've posted or printed it that I left out some word. The whole process takes hours instead of a few minutes. This process is so frustrating that sometimes I just give up. Does anyone have this experience writing and if so, what techniques have you developed that help?

P.S:
For some reason, I make fewer errors and my writing is a lot speedier if I write it out long hand first. For some reason, the word processor makes it hard to keep your train of thought going because you find yourself derailed by the formatting. I also found using NotePad to be a useful tool. Since it doesn't have formatting, it is less distracting. I also set the width of the Window to be very short. For some reason, my thoughts are less likely to get derailed and I make fewer errors.

Edit: I haven't picked an answer because all of these responses are great! I also want to keep the suggestions coming so that others will benefit. Thanks a lot.

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I made a proofreading app and I feel your pain. If you are the author, you can't proofread it right because your mind te …

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I don't know whether you do this or not, but one of the best ways of proofreading I've found is to print out the documen …

~8y ago

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I thought the obvious answer was this: Have someone else proof your work. No matter how many times I go over my story, …

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Is it possible for you to practice Ernest Hemingway's advice of leaving some time between writing and proofreading so yo …

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I find that most of my mistakes occur at or across line breaks. After your first proof-reading pass, change the margin …

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Use text-to-speech software. It's available on almost every computer nowadays, for free. The advantage of this is that t …

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I just recalled a friend telling me years ago that he witnessed professional proof readers and editors, who work for pub …

translation missing: en_abbrev.datetime.distance_in_words.almost_x_years ago

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I think the answer to your specific problem is that there is no simple solution. There is no trick. Reading out loud doe …

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I use this proofreading tool

~1mo ago

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Read from the bottom up. It derails the comprehension so it's much easier to see individual words, and you catch many m …

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/5400. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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10 answers

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I don't know whether you do this or not, but one of the best ways of proofreading I've found is to print out the document and read it through in the paper format, rather than trying to proofread writing on screen.

Mark up your corrections on the paper in a particular coloured ink and correct them on-screen. Now take a break and do something else before going back to the paper proof again and correct the next set of errors in a different colour and so on until all corrections have been found.

Keep repeating this process until the draft is correct. Don't try and catch all errors in one read through, sometimes it can take several readings to catch them all.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6775. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I made a proofreading app and I feel your pain. If you are the author, you can't proofread it right because your mind tends to skip things it already knows.

The next step is to read it loud but that is not the best approach because you're still subjective and tend to race it down.

What most people seem to suggest is having someone else proofread or read it loud for you.

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Since our last update, Typely is able to read text for you and the feedback we received is awesome.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/31592. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Is it possible for you to practice Ernest Hemingway's advice of leaving some time between writing and proofreading so you come to it fresher?

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/9454. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Use text-to-speech software. It's available on almost every computer nowadays, for free. The advantage of this is that the computer is stupid and will read whatever you have written, even if it makes no sense. (Of course, this approach assumes you will recognize the mistake when you hear it.) Human readers will instead often unconsciously fix textual mistakes as they read aloud.

(OT: My experience in teaching young children is that this human tendency to fix/guess often hinders learning to read, especially for comprehension. Watch for that with your kids. When they are reading aloud, don't let them paraphrase the text. Force them to read it word for word, phrase by phrase, exactly as written. [Scanning and speedreading are for skilled readers, not for beginners.] If your kids can't do this with age-appropriate texts, then they either need more phonics work, or they have dislexic issues, or they are rushing too much.)

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/9362. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I think the answer to your specific problem is that there is no simple solution. There is no trick. Reading out loud does definitely help, but ultimately if your mind is subconsciously fixing the errors as you go so that you read right over them without taking any notice, it's going to happen when you're reading out loud just the same.

You have to train yourself to see what's there instead of what you want to see.

It really is that simple.

The funny thing is that this is applicable to much more than just proof-reading. It applies to characters, to plots, to descriptions, to entire novels.

You have to see it as if you've never seen it before. It's difficult as hell, but you've got to learn it.

Just keep practicing. Go slow. Slow, slow, slow. Go slow enough and you'll only have to go once or twice.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/5403. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I find that most of my mistakes occur at or across line breaks.

After your first proof-reading pass, change the margin slightly on your window - perhaps just by half an inch. This will cause all the text to wrap at a different point and previously hidden errors will become apparent on the second pass.

Of course I think that (as others have suggested) reading it out loud is the very best way, this way is quick and will always turn up a few more. In fact, it will reveal errors that will be MISSED by reading it aloud.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/9409. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I just recalled a friend telling me years ago that he witnessed professional proof readers and editors, who work for publishers, use a pencil to plot a dot over each and every word as they read through a manuscript. It forces them to read every word. Of course, it is only a matter of time before your brain goes on autopilot again, especially on very long documents.

I thought of another idea from folks here about reading aloud and even a software suggestion. A speech synthesis program can help by reading the text back to you. It won't get the tone and pace right, but it helps as you read along.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/5431. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I thought the obvious answer was this: Have someone else proof your work.

No matter how many times I go over my story, a reader will still find stuff I've missed. They'll also find sentences that I read as perfectly sensible, but that they can't parse.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/19169. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Read from the bottom up.

It derails the comprehension so it's much easier to see individual words, and you catch many more typos and dropped words.

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I use this proofreading tool

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