Proofreading is an essential skill for all writers, regardless of the genre they specialize in. From brochures highlighting an industrial product to an essay that needs to be submitted, all forms of writing are susceptible to errors related to logic, spelling or grammar. Hence, all forms of writing need to go through a proper proofreading session before they can be presented to their target audience.
Proofreading, though, is not difficult. Following a few steps in a systematic manner can enable a writer to get rid of the errors that his manuscript is beset with.
Break down the proofreading into smaller tasks: Resist the temptation to correct every kind of error at the same time. You are more likely to overlook errors this way. Break the proofreading session into small proofreads. For example, do one proofing for spelling and punctuation. Next, proof the document for grammatical errors. Then, do a third content proofing for factuality and consistency.
Proofread from a hardcopy: While this may not be possible in all situations, proofreading a printed copy is easier and more efficient that proofreading from a computer screen. Hence, wherever possible, it is better to do the proofreading from a printed document.
Use proper proofreader marks: This is essential, especially, when editing large voluminous documents. Use of proper marks enables you to summarize the proofreading exercise. For corrections, which lack standard proofreading marks, make small notes about the errors nearby. Be clear and specific about your corrections and do not simply circle the errors.
Get someone else to proofread your work. When proofreading your own writing, the errors you made may not always be noticeable. Getting someone else to do the proofreading brings a fresh perspective to the work.
Check page numbers and header and footer text: Too often, proofreaders make the mistake of assuming that minor issues, such as page numbers and other titles, are correct and that they would have been looked into during the writing stage itself. Check the page number of each page vis-à-vis the preceding and following pages, and ensure that text in the header and footer are correct.
Try to do your proofreading in the morning: Proofreading in the morning with a fresh mind is most effective. The early morning calm provides an environment that is free from distractions that may crop up later in the day.
Avoid fluorescent lighting: Fluorescent lighting has a slower flicker rate than other forms of lighting, such as incandescent or vapor-based lighting. Hence, you are more likely to overlook mistakes in areas lit by fluorescent lighting than by other kinds of lighting.