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Improving Your Proofreading Skills


Nobody wants to red a stry with tonz of tapas. That's why proofreading is essential.

Still, it's not all that exciting. If you'd like to expedite your proofreading so you can get back to good old fashioned writing, consider these three tips.

  1. Print It Out
  2. Take a Break, Then Revisit
  3. Use Your Computer's Voice Command

Print It Out

Phones and computer screens are made for scrolling. Most visitors spend a matter of seconds on webpages before moving on to the next. So when we proofread on digital screens, we tend to skip over things we shouldn't, simply because our brains are trained to scroll.

Printed pages, on the other hand, make up books and newspapers. And since those typically offer longer, more detailed reading experiences, we usually read them more closely. As a result, you might find that you proofread best on a printed page.

If you opt for this method, keep a pen on hand. Mark up your paper. Check off any issues you see. Write new ideas as they come to you. This method of proofreading requires additional time, but the end result is worth it.

Take a Break, Then Revisit

You know that last essay before summer break? The one you turned in a few minutes before it was due? You probably flipped through it, said, "Good enough," then dove headfirst into the nearest swimming pool.

I will not come between any student and their summer. But for optimal results, taking a break between writing and revision works wonders.

This method allows our unconscious mind time to compute what we wrote. Plus, editing requires a different kind of thinking than writing does. Sometimes when our mind tries to make that transition, we stall. If you have days, hours, or minutes to spare, take them. Let your mind return fresh for proofreading.

Use Your Computer's Voice Command

I don't know about you, but my eyes tend to to skip over little things like missing or repeated words (did you notice the one in this sentence?). Fortunately, your ears catch what your eyes miss.

If you dislike my first tip and prefer to proofread on a computer, try using your computer's voice command feature. On a Mac, go to System Preferences and click "Dictation & Speech." From there, you can enter custom keystrokes that make your computer read highlighted text. The voice selection isn't stellar, but hey. This isn't public radio. This is proofreading.

Listen and read at the same time. Look out for repetition, awkward phrasing, and clunky sentence structure. I use this method for everything I write (including this very article).

Happy proofreading!

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Kyle A. Massa

Kyle A. Massa

Speculative Fiction Author

Kyle A. Massa is the author of the short fiction collection Monsters at Dusk and the novel Gerald Barkley Rocks. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and their two cats. Learn more about Kyle and his work at his website,

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About proofreading: I've been having to proof read & edit from the 'printed' page ever since I've written. I always knew it took exceedingly more time, but this method was always "worth it' to me. Thanks for confirmation that Ive been on the right track. Melissa Bailey
Great information. I started using a character bible and change it as I realize something is missing. After the written (rewritten, rewritten) manuscript, I print it up, mark it up (crying), use tabs for easy reference on what to change. Perfect for filling in plot holes, scratching out unnecessary scenes, redundancies, echo words, etc. Then I may take up to two weeks for a break to read or whatever. I rely on a word-hoarding excel spreadsheet I have made along with my tired and reused phrases. Along side my MS I can find these double-time. Then I use a free robotic reader while I check the MS as I go. I 'just' purchased yet another book on punctuation because the CMS sucks. I mean, it's so thorough that it's bedtime reading for insomniacs. Five bucks I figure is worth one that actually addresses punctuation (which my grammar-aholic friend tells me I am horrible at). LAST I send it to my grammar-aholic and her death laser. After everything, her eagle eye finds things that have still escaped me.
What's one of the hardest things to proofread? A headline. All that big bold type just flies under the radar.

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