Proofreading tips for those who agonise over their mistakes

Everyone can have a bad day when it comes to proofreading.

Even the most experienced editors can (and do) read and re-read the same bit of copy only to miss a glaring typo that even a primary school kid can spot.


Well, because our brains are sometimes too sophisticated for their own good. When we know what we want to write – or expect to read – our brains will subconsciously dismiss anything it knows shouldn’t be there.

As such, we’ll tap out an article or message and send it, thinking it’s perfect, not realising there’s a glaring mistake everyone else but us can spot.

There are plenty of tips and tricks to correct this – here are my top five ones:

  1. Ask someone else to proof your work – it’s always MUCH easier to spot mistakes in other people’s work than your own.
  2. Proof on paper – we read differently online than with print and mistakes that can easily slip past you on screen become more obvious in print.
  3. Focus on every word – I especially do this when it’s not practical to proof on paper (such as when I’m double checking an important email).
  4. Double check anything that was entered (or corrected) at the last minute.
  5. Give it a break – if you don’t have to file or publish immediately, then wait as long as you can before giving your work a final proof and sending.

Finally, if you (or someone else) does make a mistake – well, try to forgive it. In the golden days when newspapers weren’t running on the smell of an oily rag, nothing would be published without five expert set of eyes reading over and over it – and even then mistakes would slip through. We’re only human.

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