Proofreading tips: Part 1

Lyn LaveryWe’ve all been there – your deadline is looming and you’re desperately trying to proofread your writing, but the words are blurry and your attention to detail is long gone. While nothing beats having your work checked by a fresh pair of eyes, there are times when your own tired eyes have to suffice. All is not lost though, as I’ve got some handy tips that might just help you get across the finish line. These tips are all simple things you can do in Microsoft Word – if you’re using a different word processor, check your help files for similar functionality.

Talk to me

While reading your work aloud is an excellent way to find mistakes, I personally find that this doesn’t work for me, as I just read the text the way I think it should sound. A great alternative is the text to speech function that is included in most versions of Microsoft Word. This reads the text out to you, allowing you to quickly identify mistakes such as missing words and typographical errors. It’s beyond this blog post to provide instructions on how to set this up, but a Google search for your software version and the term “text to speech” should point you in the right direction. To be honest, I was a bit doubtful as to how useful this would be when someone recommended it, but I use it regularly now, especially when my eyes are getting tired.

Change it up

My next suggestion is a simple one and may initially seem a little odd, but I’ve found this incredibly useful on many occasions. If you feel like you’re missing errors because you’ve been looking at your writing for too long, try changing the way the text looks. Make the font a different type, colour or size, then re-read. You’ll be surprised how many errors suddenly become obvious.

Find is your friend

The ‘Find’ function in Word will become your best friend when proofreading your document – it can be used to check for consistency of capitalisation and spelling, and use of abbreviations, just to name a few possibilities. It’s also great for locating overuse of the annoying word that you’ve accidentally used in your writing (I tend to overuse the word “however” for example). If you use ‘Find’ to locate the word, you can either replace it with something else, or simply delete it (nine times out of ten you’ll find you just didn’t need the word in the first place).

Play by your rules

Most of us dislike the grammar checker in Microsoft Word, as it picks up on so many things we’d prefer to ignore. Depending on the version of Word you’re using, there may be an option to customise your grammar check – this allows you to turn off the grammar rules that annoy you and turn on some of the more useful checks. For example, you can check for contractions, gender-specific language, long sentences and even Oxford commas.

While the tools in your word-processor and other third-party apps have their place, nothing is as good as a human checking carefully through your work, particularly if it’s an important document such as a thesis. If you have a little time up your sleeve before your deadline, contact us for a quote. We can assist with the proofreading, formatting and reference checking of your document to ensure it’s of the highest possible standard and give you a chance to rest those tired eyes!

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