Top 10 Proofreading Techniques that Work

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January 4, 2016

A guide on how to proofread your own writing

proofreading techniques

First off, you must know that the definition of proofreading is different from editing. One of the common proofreading mistakes is editing a manuscript instead of actually proofreading it, and vice versa. Editing focuses on the structure and flow of your work, while proofreading is about polishing the technical aspects.

Today, you’re going to learn about proofreading tips and techniques that’ll make it easier for you to polish your work to perfection. These are the following:

Technique #1: Read your work aloud to yourself.

One of the most effective proofreading techniques  is reading your work aloud to yourself. By doing this, you’re more likely to realize the errors you didn’t notice before, such as awkward word placement, missing information and punctuations,  and repetitive words.

Technique #2: Be careful with homonyms.

It is easy to use homonyms interchangeably as they are often similar in pronunciation or spelling. However, because they possess different meanings, you won’t be able to deliver your message properly when you fail the use the correct words.

Some examples of commonly interchanged homonyms are the following:

Accept Except
Affect Effect
Farther Further
Lead Led
Than Then

Incorrect: Every terrorist attack effects plenty of people around the world.

Correct: Every terrorist attack affects plenty of people around the world.

Explanation: Effect is a noun, while affect is a verb.

Technique #3: Be on the lookout for contractions and apostrophes.

Apostrophes are an indication of possessive nouns and contractions. They may look like teeny tiny things, but the way you use them affects your credibility as a writer.

Some of the common mistakes that both writers and non-writers are the following:

Its It’s
Their They’re
Your You’re
Were We’re
Whose Who’s


These words are often mixed up. Once your reader catches you making this mistake,  it can affect how he/she is going to perceive your work. To make it easier, just remember that the plural form of any word never comes with an apostrophe.

Incorrect: Do not leave you’re things unattended.

Correct: Do not leave your things unattended.

Explanation: You’re is a contraction of the words you and are, while your is a possessive form of you.

Technique #4: Keep a keen eye on punctuations.

As you try to make sure that each word contributes to the flawlessness of your work, you must never forget to keep an eye on punctuations. They should all be in the right places. Missing or extra punctuations are a big no-no as well.

Technique #5: Construct and reconstruct your sentences properly.

When you rephrase parts of a manuscript, especially your own, you have to be sure that your sentences are grammatically complete and are punctuated correctly. Avoid fragments and run on sentences. Keep your sentences as short as possible because nobody wants to read a three-line sentence. It’s exhausting. So, break down those long sentences into short, compelling ones.

Technique #6: Be sure that modifiers are in the right places.

Dangling modifiers often make sentences lose their meaning, making your readers confused. Always position modifiers near the words they are referring to, in order to deliver a clear message.

Incorrect: Thirsty, every drop of water was consumed.

Correct: Thirst, we consumed every drop of water.

Explanation: Thirsty is an adjective, which means that it should be describing a subject.

Technique #7: Check if you are using pronouns wisely.

Pronouns are used in place of nouns to avoid repetition. To avoid confusing your readers, your pronouns should have a clear reference and should agree with the referent noun in number.

Incorrect: A good story makes a reader glad that they bought the book.

Correct: A good story makes a reader glad that he/she  bought the book.

Explanation: If the noun is singular, the pronoun must be singular as well.

Technique #8: Observe the right usage of commas.

Commas create a pause, which gives a reader some time to catch his/her breath when reading a sentence. It also helps readers understand what message is being conveyed to them. But when unnecessary commas are present, readers will find it difficult to understand what they’re reading.

More importantly, never combine two independent clauses using a comma. Since they are independent, they should be separated by a period, or a semicolon if the second sentence supports the first one. However, unless you are using conjunctions, such as and, but, or, for, yet, so, and nor, you may opt to put a comma before a conjunction.

Incorrect: I love eating my dog, and my family.

Correct: I love eating, my dog, and my family.

Incorrect: Let’s eat children.

Correct: Let’s eat, children.

Explanation: The right positioning of commas makes the meaning of a sentence much clearer. Also, it saves lives!

Technique #9: Watch out for commonly misused words.

Misused words lead to confusion for the readers. So, make sure the words you used are able to deliver the right message.

Some examples of commonly misused words are the following:

Award Reward
Between Among
Continuously Continually
Everyday Every day
Fewer Less
i.e. e.g.
Lie Lay
Price Prize

Incorrect: I walk my dog everyday.

Correct: I walk my dog every day.

Explanation: Everyday is synonymous to daily, while every day is synonymous to each day.

Technique #10: Proofread your work backwards.

Yes, it’s possible! If you read your work backwards, you’ll be able to see the typographical errors that you might have missed when you first proofed your work. You can choose to do this either word by word, or sentence by sentence. This helps you maintain correct spelling in your writing.


Now that you know the right techniques in proofreading, apply what you have learned and you’ll be on your way to having the next bestseller.


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