Guaranteed proofreading tricks for a better document

1. Read each word of your text right to left (instead of left to right). When we proofread the same way we write and read, our eyes and brain can work in conjunction to fool us—tricking us into reading what we expect to see. You are more likely to catch a misused word or typo if you are not reading the words in order. (Although I wouldn’t recommend proofing your 50,000-word manuscript this way, this technique is extremely helpful with shorter documents.)

2. Turn your page upside down. Sounds crazy, right? This proofreading trick works best when visually reviewing a document  for layout, photo placement, margins, etc. If any element in your layout doesn’t line up or needs adjustment, it will jump out at you.

3. Print it out. Do not—I repeat, do not—proofread your document on a computer screen. We read differently on the computer than we would on a hard copy in front of us. In addition, it is more difficult to catch alignment and other visual page issues if you have to scroll down.

4. Don’t assume. If at all in doubt about word usage, spelling, or any other issue, stop and look it up. I once proofed a document that contained the words “about whom” and “about who” in two consecutive sentences. Rather than looking it up and getting the word usage right, the writer settled on being only 50% right—which also means being 50% wrong.

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