Understanding how to find and correct your own mistakes is empowering.
Cover Your Bases
Spelling · Grammar · Punctuation
Before you contact a professional proofreader, there are several ways to double check your own work. The proofreading checklist below should help you identify those areas within your control and reduce the time or negate the need for paid proofreading services.
Time – Try not to wait until the last minute to proofread your work. Proofreading takes time and the more you allow for proofreading, the better your final product will be. If you decide to hire a professional proofreader, opt for a Second Set of Eyes, as the more proofreaders who read your document, the better the outcome. Humans will be reviewing your material so, if you give us aggressive deadlines, the number of errors we catch will be impacted. This is true for all proofreaders – not just The Proofreaders!
Spelling – MS Word and other word processing software packages offer spell checking features. Many underline a word as soon as the program doesn’t recognize it while others force you to manually invoke the spell check function. Don’t rely on the spell checking feature alone! Print your document out, if possible, and read it slowly out loud. You will catch many errors, such as missing words and other common mistakes, that a spell checker would never catch.
Frequent mistakes overlooked by spell checkers
Homonyms – These are words that are spelled differently but sound the same, such as “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” In the English language, there’s a long list of homonyms and your spell checker most likely won’t know the difference. So, it’s your job to make sure you are using the correct word.
- “Compliment” is commonly misspelled as “complement” and vice versa. Remember, the “e” means to complete; (“The potatoes complemented the fish.”); the “i” means to remark favorably; (“He complimented Mary on her stunning dress.”)
- “Prospective” is commonly misspelled as “perspective”; the former means, “potential, likely, in the future,” whereas the latter means, “seeing all relevant data, point of view.”
Problems Caused by Fast Typing
Forgotten prepositions: “I am going the store.” We sometimes try to type fast to keep up with our brains but our fingers just can’t do the work. As a result, we omit words and most spell checkers won’t catch these omissions.
Omitted letters that don’t create misspellings, such as:
- “Your” is frequently quickly typed as “you”:
- “I am responding to you ad for a proofreader…”
(Yes, we’ve received e-mails such as these!)
- “To” vs. “Too”: “He to will be coming.” – the missing commas here cause even greater ambiguity for your spell checker!
Erroneous Comma Usage:
Missing commas: These will entirely change the meaning of your sentences and are beyond the scope of any spell checking program.
Misplaced commas: These examples are from Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
“Leonora walked on her head, a little higher than usual.” In this sentence, the comma has been misplaced and belongs after “on.”
The driver managed to escape from the vehicle before it sank and swam to the river-bank.” Without a comma after “sank”, this sentence suggests that the vehicle swam to the river-bank, rather than the passenger.
Other Frequent Errors:
“Separate” is commonly misspelled as “seperate”; remember there’s “a rat” in separate.
“Further” is frequently substituted for “farther”; the former means “additional” and the latter refers to distance.
Of course, you will not always have the luxury of time or experience to thoroughly go through your documents; please contact The Proofreaders for a sharp set of eyes!
Take our Grammar Quiz and see how well you do!