Have you ever been afraid that editors will think you haven’t proofread your article, even though you definitely have?
Do you reread your messages ad nauseam, only to feel a sense of dread when sending your draft?
Yeah, proofreading isn’t fun.
Writing has a creative reward. Editing gives you an authority advantage. But proofreading? It’s tedious, boring, and you never feel like you’re doing things right.
The problem with proofreading is that we rarely look beyond grammar and spelling. And that’s what most proofreading tips seem to focus on, but the reality is, there is so much more.
Sure, we read the guidelines and try to follow certain styles, but that’s about it. In fact, at the surface level, these sound like the only things you could do.
Otherwise, you’d just rewrite aimlessly, right?
What if I told you that there is another level – or five – to proofreading?
It may sound like we are entering the publishing business, but I promise not. This deeper proofreading is still an incredibly content system, which means you won’t be tempted to rewrite everything (as often happens when editing your own work).
Quick and easy proofreading tips to improve your writing
These 5 proofreading tips are really quick and painless, but the payoff will be huge.
1. Hidden spelling and grammar errors
While we all love wavy lines in grammar checkers (ProWritingAid is our favorite on The Write Life), that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily 100% accurate, nor that they aren’t the ultimate solution.
Word processors and proofreading tools may lack linguistic nuances, such as confusion between “where” and “were” or “in” and “about”.
Catching these errors is easier when you are actively researching them.
Some proofreading tips say to read an article backward. Others suggest reading the article aloud (preferably the next day). Both are great movements. I would also add running your post through multiple processors – maybe Word and Google Docs, for example. You could potentially use several proofreading tools like ProWritingAid and Grammarly to go further.
In my experience, one tool often picks up what the other might have missed.
2. Unintentional repetition
Repetitive adjectives, adverbs, and even verbs are an often overlooked factor for writers.
This phenomenon is not as pervasive when the piece is short and you write it in one sitting. However, when you write a long form or come back to a piece that you started working on hours or days before, you often forget your pre-existing arsenal of words.
You can start by using the “search” function on Word or Google Docs (Command + F / Ctrl + F) to see how many times you have used a specific phrase.
The reader can say when you use the same adjective. It makes them stop and wonder if they’re re-reading the same line or if you’ve accidentally duplicated a paragraph. Your reader’s undivided attention might just be a synonym.
3. Loss of voice
Do you know how they say reading is the best writing teacher (or something like that)?
I’m not saying you were lied to, but I a m saying that sometimes your favorite writer – or a motivational article – can find its way into your writing. Inspiration can turn into imitation, so make sure your writing retains its unique flow.
If you want some sort of measuring stick for voice loss, try reading aloud one line from the beginning and one line from the end. Do they appear to have been written by the same person (you)?
If so, compare to a middle line.
If they don’t match, don’t panic. All you have to do is proofread from start to finish. Believe me, you will be able to tell where it all went wrong.
4. Generic lines
A similar publish is based on conventions of the genre. Whether it’s a sci-fi novel, a post for a yoga blog, or a poem for your sweetheart: don’t fall prey to the call of the mermaid clichés.
Don’t you know what I’m talking about?
Generic lines look like anything you’ve ever read. They usually contain buzzwords and try to incorporate a lot of jargon. The problem is, they aren’t authentic and usually don’t say much.
Nine times out of 10, all you have to do is extract those filler sentences. Removing them will not only relieve your writing of the dangers of inauthenticity, but also make the finished product cleaner and more concise.
5. Passing arguments
Nothing kills like an exaggeration.
Each subject has a built-in stretch meter (AKA how long you can declaim before you run out of things to say). One of the most important proofreading tips is to make sure you haven’t gone over the mark.
Do your last paragraphs sound about the same? Consolidate them into one.
You can also avoid ramblings by assigning a specific detail or argument to each of your paragraphs. If you limit each sentence to its unique purpose, it will become all the more difficult for an idea to appear more than once.
Take your writing to the next level
Will these proofreading tips make the process more fun? Not necessarily, but they will definitely give you better control over your writing.
While it’s inevitable that you’ll miss a spot here and there, these tips will help you do your best job at all times.
Here is to fear a little less the button “submit”!
This is an updated version of a story that was posted previously. We update our articles as often as possible to make sure they are useful to our readers.