As a professional proofreader, I have occasionally been asked if I have any tips for catching errors or typos. Previously, I shared 8 of these tips in Part One. But since I wrote that post, I’ve noticed several other tips and trick that I can share to help catch small mistakes. These tips won’t necessarily help with content problems or even sentence-level issues with syntax, wording, or phrasing. They’re designed primarily for proofreading, when you’re reading a manuscript for the final time and trying to catch all of the tiny, easily-overlooked errors. Once you’re ready to proofread, how do you find those mistakes? Here are a few tips that will help you see your manuscript with fresh eyes:
Auto-correct features can actually be helpful if you’re working on a computer. If you know that there’s a word you often mistype, you can set your word-processing software of choice to correct it for you. For example, even though I know how “their” is spelled, I have a habit of accidentally typing “thier.” So I set auto-correct to insert “their” instead every time I mistype it.
We all know that spell-check often isn’t reliable. It certainly doesn’t catch everything, and might even attempt to correct something that you don’t need or want to fix. But if utilized correctly, spell-check can give you an extra scan of your manuscript and catch a few errors you might have missed. You shouldn’t rely on it entirely, but do take a look at what it highlights.
- Print it out
I mentioned in Part One how helpful it can be to change the formatting and font in order to look at your manuscript in a different way. But I forgot to mention that printing the manuscript out can be another great way to do this. Many writers, myself included, find that it’s easier to spot errors on a printed copy of the manuscript. Something about looking at the physical pages as opposed to the computer monitor helps you see all those little mistakes you missed.
- Focus on one thing at a time
This tip is especially helpful for proofreading shorter works, like articles, short stories, or query letters. You might find it easier to spot mistakes if you break it down and focus on only one thing at a time. So, for example, look for only spelling mistakes for one round, and then proofread it again just to focus on sentence structure, then again for punctuation, etc. This will, of course, take much longer and require multiple readings, but you’ll be able to spot errors more easily if you narrow your focus.
- Have someone else read your work
Finally, there’s a limit to how much you can catch on your own. Eventually, you’ll have read your work so many times that you simply can’t spot the errors anymore. This is yet another reason why I recommend hiring a professional proofreader if possible (see this post for more info). At the very least, have critique partners look for mistakes. A fresh set of eyes will always catch things you missed.
Do you have any tips for catching typos? Are there any strategies I missed? Let me know in the comments!
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