Writing isn’t always easy, especially when you’re in a time crunch.
Writers and researchers spend long grueling hours and put in a huge amount of effort into their works—only to find grammatical errors, misspellings, and a whole bunch of slip-ups and blunders.
But that’s part of the writing process. Mistakes, after all, can’t be avoided. That’s one of the reasons why proofreading remains important and why you shouldn’t skip out on it.
An Introduction: Proofreading
Good writers always proofread, or at the very least, have someone else do it for them.
In writing, we can say that proofreading is the final touch. Before a book or a written piece can be published or shared, it goes to the process of proofreading.
By proofreading, we carefully check and fix any errors in the text. These can range from spelling mistakes, typos, grammar, punctuation marks, sentence structure, and to formatting and style inconsistencies.
It makes your content fit for the message that you want to put out. And, as well as give you another chance to review your work.
In print publishing, proofreaders are even responsible for fixing numbering errors and page formatting.
Proofreading is essential for any text, not only in books, but also in essays, in research papers, in articles, and even in job application forms or CVs. Its importance can’t be denied.
Imagine having to read a piece of writing that has so many grammatical errors and typos. It makes you want to tear out your hair in frustration, doesn’t it?
Well, that’s precisely why proofreading is crucial because mistakes can negatively impact your work.
Even after editing, there would still be minor errors in grammar and punctuation. The manuscript goes through numerous revisions and changes all throughout that it’s easy to misspell or overlook.
Thus, proofreading or reviewing your work is a must. It is the last step of the writing process before authors submit their manuscript for publication.
Knowing the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading
When it comes to editing and proofreading, there are vast differences.
Wait—it’s not the same thing?
You read it right.
Many people are confused with it, but, essentially:
Editing and proofreading are two completely different things.
The key distinction between the two is what’s being corrected.
While proofreading only checks for grammar and looks into surface errors such as formatting, spelling, and sentence structures, editing is all about making changes in the content itself.
When we say content, it means the flow of ideas, theme, narration, structure, and language.
Editing is a big task. It involves making major changes in the plot. The process makes sure that the main idea and premise are supported by sufficient proof and are explained in a clear and concise manner.
Other differences include:
- Proofreading deals with the surface level and is in need of a more systematic approach; editing looks into the substance and requires understanding.
- When you proofread, you eliminate wrong grammar, spelling, and as well as sentence structure error; when you edit, you improve the overall quality of the text, clarify ideas, and re-organize paragraph structures in order to convey the message more effectively.
- The purpose of proofreading is to ready the manuscript for printing or submission; whereas, the main objective of editing is to remove errors, inconsistencies, and opposing or refining ideas.
- The proofreading process improves writing skills; the editing process helps you become an effective writer.
In the process, editing always comes first before proofreading. Both are necessary when you’re planning to publish your book someday.
The Writing Process
It all starts with an idea, whether you’re working on a story or a research paper.
When I was writing my research, I had to go through the ritual of studying, gathering data and information, outlining, and writing itself, until I was able to finally produce my first draft for submission. It wasn’t an easy feat.
In fact, as soon as my mentor gave his comments on my manuscript, the process of editing proofreading commenced.
There are four stages of editing and proofreading:
1st Stage: Content Editing
It involves revising an early manuscript. Often, having to make major changes and comments to the discussions by moving, deleting, and adding entire chapters or sections.
2nd Stage: Line Editing
The editor makes use of transitional words or phrases to communicate ideas better or as effectively as possible. The step also includes having to adjust or change word usages to improve the flow of the text.
3rd Stage: Copy Editing
The last stage of the editing process is polishing sentences and ensuring it follows proper citations if it’s needed. It’s somewhat similar to proofreading, only that copyeditors can work with the author to change a sentence or paragraph if it’s too vague or unclear.
4th Stage: Proofreading
Completes the whole process. Proofreaders carefully and painstakingly check each sentence for any remaining mistakes and errors in punctuation and grammar. They review everything from the very start.
When you publish your book, you’ll find out there is a person tasked for each step. Different professionals are responsible for editing, copywriting, and proofreading.
There’s a clear distinction among the roles of content writers, line editors, and copyeditors.
Learn more about it here.
What to Watch Out for When Proofreading
If you’re about to correct grammar mistakes after editing the manuscript, then look no further:
- Spelling and Word Choice: correct homophones and pronouns. Often, students in their rush, would make the common mistake between they’re/their/theirs/there. Similarly, the misuse of definite and indefinite articles such as a/an.
- Misplaced punctuation: Missing commas and apostrophes, inappropriate use of exclamation points, and confusion between hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes.
- Inconsistent Style: Proofreaders correct capitalization error, particularly in names and titles. Also, switching between UK and US word usages. It’s better to be consistent when it comes to your writing style.
- Formatting: Be careful when it comes to using the write quotation and citation. The possibility of plagiarism looms. Likewise, in formatting make sure to keep an eye on missing headers, fonts, and spacings to fix formatting and numbering errors.
How Long Does It Take to Proofread?
A common question that’s asked a lot is this.
Now, the answer varies. It depends on a number of factors such as the type of text, the length of it, and how well it was edited beforehand.
Typically, longer articles take more time to go through and are more tedious to check.
However, that said, having a shorter piece doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any easier.
Although some works might have fewer pages, if the manuscript contains more errors in punctuation mistakes and in sentence construction, then it’s possible that it’ll take more time to make the necessary corrections.
Ideally, you should have plenty of time for editing and proofreading, because it can take more than a day to do so.
Back when I was writing and making the revisions for my paper, I finished editing the content alone in three days and another day to proofread.
However, if you’re working under a deadline, then you can opt to hire a professional proofreading service. Or better yet, why don’t you try beefing up on your proofreading skills instead?
Tips for Proofreading
A professional proofreader can complete around 10,000 to 15,000 words in a day. That’s astounding, considering that the proofreading process requires one to pay close attention to details. So, how do they do it?
Simply, by practice. This answers the question.
Proofreading skills aren’t built overnight. Both editing and proofreading require the use of writing and reading techniques. Below are some tips and tricks to help you get by:
- Read It Out Loud. Not sure if it sounds right? Why don’t you try reading the words out loud? Based on my experience, doing so was very helpful. Some sentences might read awkwardly, and you’ll only realize it later on. Reading out loud can spot bad grammar and error faster.
- Highlight. When you’re using a word document file, make sure that you take advantage of its features. For example, highlighting common errors. It makes it easier to pause, get back to it later on, and work on other sections at the same time.
- Take a Break. If you’ve been staring at the computer screen too long, then maybe it’s time to get a cup of coffee or some snacks. It can be exhausting and mentally draining to sit all day and read a bunch of words. You start to lose your concentration and clarity.
- Divide Manuscript Into Sections. Be methodical. As I have previously mentioned, proofreading demands a systematic approach. It might be overwhelming to proofread so many pages, that’s why you should be smart about it. Dividing the manuscript into sections is one way to go about it. Another strategy is to take it one line at a time.
- Work from a Printout. Now, I know this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but printing out the manuscript physically is a great help. If you think that working in front of a computer tires you out more, then try having the manuscript printed.
- Ask Someone to Read Your Work. Peer reviews and comments are forms of feedback. Sometimes, we can be blind to our own mistakes and miss a spot or two.
- Make Use of Proofreading Services. Nowadays, there are many proofreading software and online platforms that students can use. The likes of Grammarly, Creative Savant, and Elsevier offer editing and automated proofreading services to improve writing. It can tell you whether you’ve been using a word or a phrase too much, and it will give you suggestions and other alternatives.
- Take Advantage of the Search Bar. With a click of CTRL +F, you can instantly search through the manuscript file to search for common errors.
- Avoid distractions. Try to proofread in a quiet environment. Finding a comfortable writing spot can benefit you. With sentences after sentences laden with error, the work of a proofreader is not easy.
Why Do We Proofread?
Many people underestimate the importance of proofreading. Most students tend to focus on editing the content. While that might not be wrong, proofreading is just as important.
Publishing a book without proofreading your manuscript can land you in trouble.
For one, you can receive backlash and negative comments from your target group of readers. This can discourage them from reading your work again.
And that’s the last thing that we want.
Mistakes/error have a negative impact, but it also runs deeper.
Our Writing is a Reflection of Ourselves
Remember that writing isn’t only just that. Rather, writing is a reflection of ourselves, regardless of what our occupation and line of work are.
You can come off as sloppy and lazy if you don’t proofread.
A CV that hasn’t been grammatically corrected can lessen the chances of getting picked; a caption for an online store that uses the wrong words can deter customers away.
In the same way, authors proofread in order to improve the reading experience of their readers.
To put it simply, proofreading shows that your work is of high quality.
In conclusion, proofreading and its importance can’t be stressed enough.
So, the next time you’re looking into submitting a paper or an essay, stop. And make sure to proofread.
Trust me, it’ll help you improve as a writer.
FYI, this article has been edited and proofread before being posted.