It’s almost a requirement that you have a third-party read over anything you’ve written prior to submission. In addition to invaluable feedback and criticism, an extra pair of eyes are useful in catching grammar and spelling mistakes you may have otherwise missed. But unfortunately not everyone has the luxury of having someone on hand to read their work. In such times it’s critical that writers learn how to edit by themselves. Here’s a list of five tips that are sure to help you become a better self-editor in the event you are your only proofreader prior to submission:
Wait 24 hours: Recently written words have a tendency to be read in our heads as we intended to write them, making possible mistakes hard to sniff out. Waiting a day or two to edit your own work allows you time to lose familiarity with the writing and better detect errors.
Read it out loud: Speaking your words out loud not only helps you improve the flow of your writing, it enables you to catch grammatical mistakes you could be missing on account of “looking” for errors rather than sensing them as an absorber of information.
Read it backwards: Another clever way to outwit your brain’s habit of scanning over the finer details of writing is to read your work backwards. By separating your work into individual sentences that don’t flow together, you can focus more on the specifics of each written thought or idea.
Know your most common mistakes: Old habits die hard (kind of like clichés) and it’s important that writers remember where their work tends to be its weakest. That way you can be on a look out for the specific errors you make the most. Write a list if you have to, but try and commit it to memory.
Proofread all the time: Whether reading an article in the New York Times or poring over medical coding industry news on your smartphone, always be on the lookout for spelling errors and poor grammar. Not only is it exciting to uncover mistakes in mainstream media and printed literature, it trains you to become a natural editor which in turn helps you better proofread your own writing.
Editing should always be done by somebody else. But the reality for most writers, especially those of you in school, is that proofreading must be done by yourself. If this is the case, then become a better self-editor by incorporating the aforementioned tips into your proofreading plan.
By Jennifer Smith