Proofreading: How To Trick Your Brain When it Wants to Trick You.

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I wish I could say that I’m a proofreading genius, but alas, I make dumb mistakes daily. When I worked in PR, we had a system of proofreading each other’s writings, which was a luxury.

We’re not always in a position to get a second read on our writing before we have to send it out on a deadline of one sort or another (I’m not talking about manuscripts, you should always get multiple critiques of those). If you’re writing a post, or a query, or if you had a manuscript edited then changed something at the last minute, you still want to make sure you go over your work.

I spent an evening nit-picking, literally, my kids’ hair (you have to love those ‘lice has been found at school’ notices), then I had to sit down and nit-pick a post I’d been working on. I missed things I shouldn’t have missed.

Let’s face it, writing is just one of many roles we take on each day and some days we aren’t as fresh as others. And even if your eyes are rested, your brain fills in mistakes. So it’s possible to read something a thousand times and not catch a glaring typo. Sadly, that typo becomes brighter than the noonday sun once you click the send button on a query to your dream agent. So what can you do when you truly don’t have a second pair of eyes to proofread something that has to go out ‘right now?’

These are tricks I’ve used before:

  • Read you’re text backwards. sdrawkcab txet er’uoy deaR. This method is great for catching double spaces after periods (for those like me who grew up with word processors and can’t kick the habit), misspellings, apostrophes in places they shouldn’t be and pesky words like your and you’re. Did you catch that, in fact?
  • If not, then read your stuff upside down to.
    upside-downDid you catch the two errors above? I often don’t in my own writing. You’re, your, to, too don’t show up on spellcheck and even if you know the rule for each one, your fingers may miss a key and your brain may skip over it because it knows what you meant. If you don’t know the rules regarding the use of each one, see here: http://www.livejournal.com/resources/homonyms.bml
  • Use Find on your keyboard to catch those pesky homonyms. Ctl F for MS Word/PC Command F for Mac. Put in your, too, their, etc. and go through with the Find option to double check each one.
  • Copy the text out in long-hand. Read each word as you write it.
  • E-mail the document to yourself and read it in your email. Any change in format will help re-awaken your brain and give you a chance to catch the things you may have missed.

On that same note, change your font to something that’s harder to read. A cursive-style font (but not so fancy you cant read it), for example, will force your brain to see the same text in a new lite.screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-41-57-am

Did you catch the errors there?

I hope some of these tips will be useful to you as you try to do basic edits to your work. Of course, having an editor is priceless. Your critique group can be helpful for catching the most basic errors, but unless you have a copy editor in your group, you may want to consider a professional editor for your manuscripts.

Here are other proofreading resources:

http://writetodone.com/get-your-eagle-eye-on-10-tips-for-proofreading-your-own-work/

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/proofreading-tips

http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Proofreading.html

https://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/proofreading-and-editing-tips-for-writers

https://www.themuse.com/advice/8-things-to-check-when-proofreading-anything

And editing resources:

http://emmawaltonhamilton.com/store/editor-in-a-box-picture-books/

http://www.kidlit411.com/2014/01/kidlit411-freelance-editors_2.html

http://publishingperspectives.com/2012/06/why-childrens-publishing-needs-freelance-editors-now/#.WAj6BjspGQ0

Please feel free to add your own tips and links to editing services you have used. Happy writing!

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8 thoughts on “Proofreading: How To Trick Your Brain When it Wants to Trick You.

  1. Thanks for compiling a great list of proofing tools. I just had my first 30 pages proofed and holy smokes, there were dozens of little mistakes that I never saw. Will try some of these before hiring someone to proof the rest of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

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