How You Can Proofread Your Own Work

Putting out a high quality product is a given these days. With all the competition out there, you have to look great in every aspect. So proofreading all copy is extremely important and here are some tips to help you to proofread your own work after you've finished editing it:

Read through your copy the next day -- many times your eye tends to 'deceive' you by reading what's supposed to be there rather than what may actually be there! Reading it a day or two later helps you to look at your copy with a fresh perspective!

Use 'spell check' which is available on most programs. Although they're not perfect, they will help you to find many errors. A red squiggly underline means the word may be misspelled, a green squiggly underline may mean a grammatical or punctuation error.

Print it out. Reading it in print can many times help you catch things you didn't catch on the screen.

If at all possible, have someone else read it. They can catch sentences that may be too long, be unclear, etc. You know the point you're trying to make in your copy, but if others don't understand it, rewrite it so it's more clear to everyone.

Be very careful how you use words such as 'then' versus 'than'. These words are used incorrectly quite often but mean different things.

Then is primarily used to signify time, e.g. "We went to the grocery, then we went to the bank." Than is primarily used as a comparison, e.g., "I would rather go hiking than take a nap."

There are a lot of questions about the hyphen (-) versus dash (--) and here's the basic rule:

A hyphen is used when you are putting two words together or adding a prefix to a word. Here are a few examples: twenty-four, re-signed or long-time.

A dash is used when you're interjecting into a sentence (such as, "I love taking the dog for a walk -- especially on warm days -- because it is great exercise for us both.").

In many programs a dash will look like a long hyphen instead of two hyphens next to each other. Dashes are also many times used in place of parentheses in more informal writing.

Punctuation inside or outside the quotes? Here's the basic rule for this one: if you're using a comma or a period, they go inside the closing quotation mark. Colons and semicolons go outside the closing quotation marks.

Question marks and exclamation marks are different and depend on how they are being used (just to complicate things more!). If you are directly quoting someone and a question mark or quotation mark is needed because what you're quoting is a question or exclamation, it would go inside the quote.

Here's an example for this one: He asked, "Are you going to the party?" "You bet!" she exclaimed.

If what you're directly quoting isn't a question or exclamation, the quotes go inside the exclamation or question mark.

An example of this is, Did David say, "You must have fallen out of bed"? or Linda actually said "You must be right"! Learning these rules may take a little time but if you print out this article and post it near your computer, you can refer to it any time you get confused. Remember, you don't have to worry about it while you're writing and editing your copy (that's when you just let the creativity flow), worry about it after all revisions have been made and it's time to proofread.

You can also find Grammar books at your local bookstore or library. Glance through them to find one you like.

If you feel you don't have time to proofread, don't want the hassle of trying to learn the rules, or just don't want to worry about it, you always have the option of hiring a professional proofreader. Professional proofreaders (as well as copy-editors) can be found via a search on the internet or by asking other writers who they use (if they have good, clean copy). When you're searching for a proofreader, make sure they are skilled in the type of writing you do (business writing versus sales, informal or conversational writing) and that they have no errors on their copy -- if they aren't extremely careful with their own work, do you think they would be with yours?)

The money you spend on a professional proofreader, besides easily being made up with the increased sales you should expect by having a more professional product, is easily worth the time, effort and frustration you will save yourself. So take it easy, let the creativity flow, send the work off to a professional for editing and/or proofreading, then sit back and relax while your copy is being groomed to perfection!

(c) 2005 Nita Helping Hand?, all rights reserved.

You are free to use this material in whole or in part as long as you include the following:

About the author: Nita is a professional proofreader, copy-editor and the President of Nita Helping Hand? Please visit Nita's website for additional information about proofreading, copy-editing and other administrative needs available at or contact her at Nita is your 'Partner In Perception'.

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