Tips (Request): What are your best methods to effectively and efficiently proofread?


New member
Hello everyone,

I am looking for some nice tips and tricks for proofreading - both your own and someone else's texts. Academic writing or not, all tips are appreciated.

I will try to edit a summary of all the useful tips here, starting with some of my own:
  1. Change the font of the text so your brain has to adjust and process the text instead of skipping over it
  2. Use different programs for grammar/spelling checks: If you use MS Word, for example, put your text into G-doc and vice versa.
  3. Don't rely only on your own proofreading - a second, third ... reader is always going to see different things than you.
  4. Don't rely only on your family, especially for wording and expressions. You often use very similar language without noticing.
  5. Make use of the search function, e.g.: search for double space or jump through the brackets "(" for citing.
  6. Read the text out loud.
  7. Let someone (or a program) read the text to you.
  8. Citation software can help to avoid citation errors, automatically create your reference list etc. (maybe not really a proofreading tip)
  9. Make use of "Track changes" and comments
  10. Read it backwards (sentence by sentence; word by word)
  11. Point at the words you are reading with a finger/pen etc.
  12. Let it sit!

6 is a must.​

It sounds odd, but I will read from the bottom up, one sentence at a time. Still read the sentences normally, just without context of the prior sentence.

It takes away the reading flow and familiarity a bit when proofreading your own writing. If reading normally , my brain fills missing words sometimes. Starting from the bottom helps catch some of these things.
@villio Reading it backwards word by word will take up too much time without much benefits. Reading sentences normally, but starting from below, as mentioned in previous comment, is a nice mid way solution
@bruin That’s true - personally I would only use the word-by-word-approach for short texts. Going sentence to sentence can also lead to overseeing of mistakes but gives you the ability to check in grammar, too.
@villio If you proof your own stuff, let it sit for a few days, maybe even a week or two. You'll approach it from a different perspective and see things you might miss if you just wrote it.

Edit: This requires finishing something before the last minute it is due. It's great when you don't have a hard deadline, but it's not great if you're a chronic procrastinator...
@villio Former book editor here.

All these things are good advice .

But also want to say that practice and concentration count for a lot.

The industry average (for copyeditors, not editors) is 5-8 pages an hour, probably, and when I'm copyediting I don't really ever do more than a handful of hours at a time.

Your brain just gets too tired.

So be prepared to take a lot of time with it.

Now, not every document needs to be proofed to a real copy editorial standard, but if it's an important essay or other kind of piece, I'd say budget that amount of time and don't work beyond the point that your brainpower flags.

I also think it's a good idea to learn basic copyeditorial notation. 1) It's cool and 2) it helps you become attuned to the kinds of errors that are out there.
@villio When I taught writing, I had students point to every word and say them.

Most of the time they a word out but would say the word. Pointing at each helped correct that.

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