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Proofreading: Seven Key Strategies

Proofreading continues to become more and more essential in the modern workplace. From business to medicine, engineering, science, law, and more, every industry uses extensive written communication. Despite the proliferation of writing, though, many people struggle to ensure their writing is grammatically correct. There are many tools such as spell check or Grammarly, but grammar errors still end up making it to print or online on a daily basis.

Grammar may not matter a lot when you are sending a quick email to your coworker, but when it comes to creating a résumé, writing an article, or drafting a report, grammar is extremely important in both communicating your message accurately and ensuring your reader respects your message.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where the grammar of your writing is important enough you are stressed about proofreading, here are seven tips you can use to make sure your content ends up spotless and accurate.

Create a checklist

It is best to create a checklist of items to pay attention for and reference the checklist every time you proofread if you proofread your work on a consistent basis. For example, on a social media post you may want to have a checklist that includes:

  • Check the first word of each sentence for capitalization.
  • Verify the end of each sentence for punctuation.
  • Review each hashtag for spelling.
  • Watch for homonyms (words that have the same sound but different meanings).

Or for an article your checklist could include:

  • Check sentences and proper nouns for capitalization.
  • Verify all numbers are accurate.
  • Watch for homonyms.
  • Ensure names are spelled correctly.
  • Review all punctuation (e.g., “example,” vs. “example”, or this .. that vs. this … that).
  • Watch for double spaces after sentences (generally you should not double space after punctuation).

Refer to a style book

While style books will have much more information than you probably need for most proofreading, they can be very helpful in answering your questions about grammar. Should you spell it healthcare or health care? Should you capitalize millennial? And should you spell out numbers or use numerals?

The two most popular are the AP Stylebook and the MLA Handbook. There are many more, including The Chicago Manual of Style and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, but of course it will depend on who your audience is.

Come back later

Take a break for a day or two after you’ve written your item before you proofread it. This allows your mind time to clear and allows you to approach your writing with a fresh perspective. If you proofread it too soon after you’ve written it, you will automatically correct errors in your mind without even knowing it.

Read your text backward

Your mind often fills in the blanks for you, shuffles letters around so a word looks like it is spelled correctly, and does all sorts of other things without you even knowing it when you are reading. But if you read text backward, starting at the very end of the document and reading each sentence backward, you will see each word for what it really is—misspelling and all.

Print it out

Seeing your writing in a different, more tangible format often helps you catch errors you wouldn’t otherwise notice. There is debate over whether reading an item on a screen is just as good as on paper, but no matter the debates—reading it in a different format always helps.

Read it out loud

Shut off all the noise and distractions around you and read aloud. This forces you to read slower, and you may end up hearing problems you don’t see. It also forces you to eliminate distractions such as your phone, email, music, or television.

Hire someone

Finally, having a professional proofread or edit your content can be a smart decision if it is an important piece of writing. Having someone who is trained to spot errors can drastically improve your writing and help you succeed in your goals, whether they be academic, professional, or even personal.

This article originally appeared at

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