Proofreading Your Own Work

Lesson 2/8 - Proofreading Quick Tips


Proofreading Your Own Work


Lesson Info

Proofreading Quick Tips

We're gonna remove our distractions. Your phone, like we talked about, it is always on your mind. Even if it's nearby, even if it's silenced, I personally have to turn mine off and leave it in the other room. I have to know that wherever it is, it's not gonna be bothering me. It's gotta have physical space and mental space because we're tied to it more than we realize. They've done studies that say people check their phone hundreds of times and they feel like they've checked it maybe a dozen. It's gonna be the first place you go when you're getting distracted. When you're proofreading and you're coming to a difficult section of writing, the very first thing you're gonna reach for out of familiarity or discomfort is your phone, because it's soothing and it's familiar. So we're gonna put that away. We've gotta remove that temptation from ourselves. Quiet space. It's easy because they seem like they should be simple things to find, but oftentimes it doesn't have to be totally quiet, just ...

something that's a dull roar. Something where you can be left alone. This can be like we talked about, a coffee shop where no one knows you, and so you can sit in the corner and no one will bother you. It could be an empty conference room. If you write, if you have a home office like I do, go into your bedroom go someplace where you didn't do the writing. The biggest thing is to not only have a quiet physical space, have it be a separate physical space. Your brain gets attuned to your surroundings, and if you're used to reaching for this mug or this pen when you're writing, you reach for this mug or this pen when you're proofreading, it's easier for your brain to fall in to these familiar spaces. All right. Your office mate might be the most charming person in the world, but not right now. Gotta take a break, gotta have physical space, from them, pets, family members. If you know you're gonna have commitments to have to speak to someone later on, like if you're at home and dinner's gotta be on the table in 10 minutes. Now is not the time to proofread, you know someone's gonna be coming in asking what are the having and when. So you have to make sure there's gonna by physical space between anyone who could be a distraction. TV, radio, these background sounds, when I'm editing or when I'm writing, I love to put on, it's called a soft murmur, and it lets you build sounds to however you'd like them. And I've discovered that I like to edit by a beach side fire. I put up the fire, I put up the waves, and it's perfect. And awesome. But not for proofreading. Proofreading, I'm not on the beach anymore, I'm at work. So get rid of these background sounds, they'll be more distracting than you realize. And if you use them while you're writing, again it's putting your brain in this place where it's primed to be thinking as a writer, not as a proofreader, and you have to put aside your writer brain and get your proofreader brain out. Taking a break. The most effective thing you can do. It's so easy, it seems like it should be completely obvious but it's a bit unexpected. Move your body, get up in the physical space. Stand up at your desk, walk around your cubicle. If you can get outside and walk outside, it's the best thing possible. Unplug. You've been so plugged into your work, into this passion project. Take a breath. Unplug from your electronics, unplug from the physical space. Move your body, get outside, create distance, as much distance as possible. Gotta give your brain a rest, it's been working hard. It needs to be unplugged, relaxed, and not even focused on anything else. You try to move into editing or doing emails, or replying to an edit you've been working on. All those things require your brain to be focused and to be working, and you need to be giving your brain a rest. Change your physical space, move your body. All right. Let's give ourselves a little wiggle. There we go, move in our space. Next, we're gonna read it aloud. So when we read our piece, we're processing our content as humans, not just as writers. The big difference is you're changing the way you're hearing what is being produced. It's not being focused on the mechanical issue of pen to paper and if the content is being written that's understandable, or believable, or you made the correct word choice. This is how do human ears hear what you had to say? You're gonna be able to have the feeling of the writing. There are some pieces that are very lyrical, some that sound very studied and academic. One of the reasons I don't love poetry as a written form is because I feel like it translates completely different when it's spoken. You feel the emotions, the pacing. When someone pauses over a period for two beats longer than they would if you had read it. You're able to assess these things with your ear that you're not able to with your eye. Sentence length. This is one that it's really hard to see on the page. You put all the information you needed together in this one sentence, and it's dynamite, you're like, "That's perfect." And then you start reading it aloud and you're like, "When do I get to the end of the sentence?" You'll be able to feel that it's too long, or that you could be losing a reader. Or when it's too short. If it's clipped, if it feels like you're running through at a pace that's not appropriate for the writing, you'll hear it when you read it out loud. This is one of the best ways to reveal possible weaknesses. If you find yourself tripping up over sections of text. What's doing that? Is it a dangling modifier, is there a split infinitive that makes the meaning a bit choppy? Did you abruptly end a paragraph without completing your argument? This will help your find areas of repetition, unnecessary words, unnecessary sections, fragments, and abrupt endings. It's very easy when you're writing to have gotten to the point where you've said the main crux of a point or argument, and then moving on because it's been completed and it feels done. But to be read, you need that transition, and you need that flow into the next point, and the next phrase. It's a great way to highlight your strengths. And then once you've found these, you see this section flows perfectly. I touched on this, this character said this, it's fluid, I like that. Use it as an example to improve those areas that could be a little bit stronger. But most importantly it puts you in an empathetic state of mind. You're hearing it and you're feeling it in a way that just reading it on the page doesn't let you do. It'll offer insight into your reader's reactions. Do you feel energized halfway through? You're like, "This is fantastic, I am so jazzed." Or do you feel a bit weary, is it dragging? You'll be able to gauge a readers reactions through the pacing and the feel and the emotional impact of your story. Now, it can be exhausting to talk for a really long time. If you have a long piece of writing you can get out of breath, it can get weary. Text to speech functions are fantastic, and in addition they're an extra step removed from yourself and from the writing. So even when you read it out loud you might catch yourself, you might have to stop and think, "Oh, I'm saying the word that I think should be there," "not the word that's there." The text to speech function has no preconceived ideas of what should be there, and it's very, very simple to do. Microsoft Word has a built-in function. Actually in the bonus material there are instructions for Macs, PCs, and just setting it up in your quick access bar in Word. So you just highlight a portion of your text, hit the speech function, and just sit and see how it feels and how it reads. Granted, they can be a little bit robotic, but that's not necessarily a disservice because you can see just where pieces are. When they read strongly you won't be as distracted by the kind of robotic feel of this voice. And if it's a weaker section of text it'll really stick out to you. So I highly recommend if you've got any piece of writing that just feels a little bit clunky, just highlight it and do a text to speech function and hear it, and you'll be like, "Oh, that transition," "I think that could be tightened up a little bit," "or I meant to use a different conjunction there." All right. Read it backward, read it line by line. This one can be a little bit jarring at first. We're used to seeing it as the complete whole, and even if we're used to seeing it as the whole, we're used to seeing it in order. We have to completely shake it up, turn everything on its head, read it backward, read one line at a time. Some people actually take two pieces of paper and they physically block out the page and just scroll, single line by single line. And it is, it's labor intensive, but it's a way that lets you review things with less effort that you can't find as easily other ways. It's small and it's manageable. You're get to see everything on the micro level, not the macro level. This is fantastic for misspelled, repeated articles. I catch a number of a an errors this where. A lot of the built in grammar style checkers are pretty good about finding these, but not all of them. Homophone errors are one of my favorite things to catch. They're always so hard for us to hear and find ourselves, because they're so close, and our brain knows that it's close enough. There, their, forward, foreword, knew, new, rain, rein, reign. All of these are things that your brain is not gonna identify as incorrect unless you really focus on it. And it's close enough that your brain will say, "It's okay, just keep going." All right, changing the visuals. I absolutely love this. Now if you're working on a file that you're worried about losing anything, I would copy what you're working with into a clean, new document. Leave your original intact. Keep the formatting the same, make a copy, and play with the copy. Then you can take any changes you need to make into your original, but protect your original. We're not gonna play with the original source. The other one however, we're gonna have fun with. So I wrote a blog post about resources for writers. They're good for every writer, not just for a specific field and this is the beginning, an expert from that article. Now I'm sure you guys can see, there's some stuff wrong in here, we threw in some errors. And there's a couple of them. We did a quick proofread, we found we've got some misspelled words, let's fix those. And that's perfect. And if we find only these, we have made the work better. But we're proofreading, we're gonna make this the best we possibly can. So we're gonna change it. We've done really simple things. We've changed the font. The biggest font change is to either go from a sans serif or to a serif, or vice versa. So a serifed font is one where the edges come out. If you look back on this one, you can see Times New Roman, that's a serifed font. The bottom of the F doesn't stop like this. It goes down like this, that's a serif. Arial, sans serif font. Changing the type of font you use should be serifed or san serifed to get the biggest change. Then, justification. Here we've created a whole new eye line. Before, where the text ended was jagged and we weren't able to see the same text in the same way. This new eye line pulls the text apart and creates different spaces, as do the spacing between the lines. So here what is you brain doing there? That doesn't belong there. And it's easier to see and dig out some of these changes. We've already found the too error, but here is right at the end of the line, and if we'd missed it before it's much easier to find. So the act of just making these small visual changes let's things that were buried just float to the surface, and it's a very easy, and it's not labor intensive to do either, you simply make a copy and make these small changes, and look at it, and your brain is like, "Oh, what is this brand new thing you've introduced me to?" And all of a sudden perks up and starts finding these errors for you. All right. Print it out if you can. It's actually been studied that we read differently on a computer screen than we do when we're reading on paper. Reading on a screen drains our mental resources. It's physically harder for us because we're reading it on the screen versus we're reading it on physical paper. The simple act of scrolling, I'm a lefty so here's my mouse. The simple act of scrolling is less physically intuitive and requires more brain power than simply holding a page and flipping it over. We're requiring less of our brain to read a physical document than we are an online document. In addition, reading online we don't have end markers. It makes it harder to remember what we read. We're much less likely to have a thorough comprehension of any text read online versus when we read it on paper. And part of it is because we make a road map when we read, and so if we're reading a document, you're starting out and it's on paper, you're like, "I remember the top of that last page," "there was a discussion about memory." When you're scrolling you remember something that's talked about memory but you don't remember where or what was said. And we interpret written language differently when we see it on a screen versus when we see it on paper. It's much harder for us to actually take in and understand abstract concepts on screen. So if you've got something and you're worried about the cohesiveness of an argument, or if something is clear or abstract or big picture way, print it out. Your brain will be able to see it and focus on it in a deeper way than if you're trying to read it online. Even if it's a large work, I know printing on a novel can be a lot of paper. It's worth it. It'll pull to the top all these small things that your brain can't see because it's too tired from trying to read online. All right. Any questions? Has anyone tried printing their work out and reading it for errors? How has it been, successful? Yeah. You find so much more that you can engage with. When I proofread, I really just want to print it out. It's like nine times easier. I'm like, "Oh, there, there, there, there." On the digital page you're like, "I think it's those." It's a different level of engagement.

Class Description

Before you share your writing with anyone, whether it be an editor, a business associate, a client or a reader, you need to make sure it’s tight, clean and error-free. That’s why it’s critical for all writers to learn how to proofread their own work.

Detecting the flaws and mistakes in your writing is difficult because you’ve grown so familiar with it. This class will teach you the tips and tricks you need to come at it with fresh eyes. Heather Saunders, an experienced writer, editor and proofreader, will provide hands-on advice on how to go about the proofing process as well as the common errors to look out for.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Approach the text in new ways by removing distractions, reading it aloud, changing the appearance of the document, and taking a break when needed.
  • Read your work from the perspective of your intended audience.
  • Fact-check your writing.
  • Figure out if the piece accomplishes its purpose.
  • Identify habitual errors, such as weak words, excessive use of adjectives and adverbs, and punctuation issues.