Writing and editing go together like peanut butter and jelly, if it is done right.
You are only as good as your last perfectly published document. However, even the best writers can miss a typo, comma or misplace a semicolon every once in a while. If you want to beef up your proofreading prowess, you need to create an editing system you can stick to like glue. These are the steps that I follow to proofread my own writing work or whenever I pay someone to write my paper.
1. Write and walk away
The biggest mistake you can make as a writer is trying to simultaneously write and edit copy at the same time, or edit directly after you have finished a piece. It will always sound brilliant right after it passes through your fingertips and onto your screen, but that does not mean it is. Once you finish writing something, walk away from the computer for a few minutes, write something else or read another article or a few pages of a book before you start editing.
2. Know your weaknesses
If you know which mistakes you make regularly, you can keep an eye out for those mistakes as you write. Print out a few documents and get out the red pen. Mark them up. Keep them nearby as a reminder until you break your bad habits. As cliché as it may sound, knowing is half the battle.
3. Use the best tools
Microsoft Word offers a very basic spelling and grammar checker. After you finish a piece, use this tool. Walk away. Then edit, revise, and then use this tool again. If you are serious about writing as a career, you will adapt your writing to the tool, making you a better writer. Over time, you may even consider investing in other helpful writing and editing tools. Granted, that does not mean you need to become completely dependent on technology or use it as a crutch, but using tools to your advantage never hurt. However, if tools are not your bag, take a writing class or research grammar tips online.
4. Read it aloud
Slow down and read your article aloud, to yourself. This will help you pinpoint errors, misplaced commas, faulty wording and more.
5. Get a second set of eyes
It never hurts to have someone else review your documents. If you are on a budget, find a freelance writing buddy you can connect with and agree to read and edit one another’s documents. This can go a long way toward published perfection.
Good writers are both born and made, but bad writers exist in droves. The difference between being a good writer or a poor one is your proofreading prowess.