Seven Effective Ways to Proofread Writing

Proofreading what you have written can be very dull. There are many different ways to proofread writing. What works for one person may constitute a painful process for another. Regardless of the method you choose, proofreading is a critical part of the writing process and should never be overlooked. Here are some effective methods for proofreading your documents.

  1. Do not rely on spelling and grammar checkers

    Spell checkers are great as a first step and will be useful in assisting you to identify high-level errors. However, automated spelling and grammar checkers are severely limited. They cannot identify many common grammatical errors. Furthermore, they often make serious mistakes that can mislead even the most diligent writer. It is important to remember that spell checkers identify misspelled words only. They do not alert you to correctly spelled words that are grammatically incorrect.

    Example: There are at least too reasons why students should not rely on spell check. [Note that the word “too” is incorrect. “Too” means, also. The correct word is “two” for the number 2.]

  2. Proofread for one error at a time

    Proofreading really is a meticulous and time-consuming process, but the more you put into it, the more you get out. If you attempt to identify and correct all errors within one sitting, you risk losing focus and you many find that you miss major mistakes. Sometimes it is useful to check for spelling mistakes and punctuation errors separately. This will make it easier to spot issues. You can then use a variety of proofreading techniques for the different types of mistakes you find.

  3. Read each word slowly

    One technique that the majority of professional proofreaders use is to read the writing they are proofreading out loud. This forces you to voice every single word and involves your auditory senses in the process, meaning that you can hear how the text actually sounds when it is read. Trying to read something quickly forces your brain to skip some words and to make unconscious corrections.

  4. Divide the text into manageable chunks

    Dividing the text into separate sections provides you with more manageable tasks. Read each section carefully. Then, take a break before you progress to the next. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead and will allow you to concentrate more effectively on the section of writing that you are proofreading. This technique is especially useful if you are proofreading a very large document such as a thesis, research paper or practicum project.

  5. Circle punctuation marks

    This method may seem somewhat excessive, but it is one of the most effective methods used for identifying punctuation mistakes. By circling every single punctuation mark, you force yourself to look at each one in turn and to question if it has been used correctly.

  6. Read the writing backwards

    This proofreading method is useful for identifying spelling mistakes because it forces you to concentrate on each word in isolation. Start with the last word in your text and follow each one separately until you reach the beginning of the document. While you are doing this, you are not really interested in punctuation and grammar; you are focusing entirely on how the words have been spelled. Many proofreaders also recommend reading papers backwards, sentence by sentence. This encourages you to consider each sentence in isolation out of the context of the rest of the writing and is great for helping you to identify grammatical errors.

  7. Note the errors you make on a frequent basis

    Proofreading your writing on a regular basis can help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses and understand where you make mistakes. If you are aware of the common errors you make, you can learn to look for them during the writing process itself. Over a period of time, will learn to avoid them altogether. Keep style guides and grammar rules at hand as you proofread. Look up any areas of which you are uncertain. Over time, you will develop your knowledge and your writing skills will improve.


*Adapted from