The Power of Proofreading

No docs allowed

When I saw this sign outside one of my favorite local businesses, I was taken aback. I mean, this place sells THE most delicious maple walnut ice cream—if docs aren’t allowed, no more maple walnut ice cream for me!

But then I took a second look, and I realized that the real intention of the sign is to prevent dogs from entering. While canine fans of ice cream might find this decree very unjust, it is certainly more understandable.

I mention this in order to highlight the importance of proofreading. If we are writing, we are expressing ideas that we think are worthy of being understood. If our writing includes typographical mistakes, though, our audience can easily misconstrue our ideas. Why not take a little bit of extra time to ensure that we’re expressing our ideas as well as possible, sans silly mistakes?

Here are a few proofreading tips that I hope you’ll find helpful, and that I use in my own writing and revision. All of these tips are based on the primary principle of considering writing from a very important perspective: the audience’s.

• If it is at all possible, take a break between writing and proofreading. When what we’ve written is fresh in our minds, we are inclined to see the text as we intended it, rather than as it really is. After some time has elapsed, we might forget some of the details of the text: this will give us a more objective view of our writing on the second go-around.
• If you want to avoid disturbing others, proofread silently. Imagine someone whose use of English you admire reading the text to you. If that person would read the text as it is written, the text is probably in decent shape.
• If you are alone, or if you don’t mind seeming as though you’re talking to yourself, proofread aloud. Often, it is easier to hear mistakes than it is to see them.
• The BEST way to proofread is to avoid doing so alone! Ask someone to read your own work to you aloud. Your proofreading partner might notice mistakes as he or she is reading, and you will certainly hear mistakes as you hear them in your proofreading partner’s voice.

These proofreading tips can be used not only for proofreading but also for deeper revision. Please use them. Both you and your audience will be glad that you did.

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