Spelling · writing tips

Tips for Painless Proofreading


Have you had this? There are times you want to crawl under the ground when you’ve discovered a typo in an important email.

(Typo is a spelling mistake because of bad typing.)

It’s so easy to make spelling mistakes in your CV, isn’t it? Or in an article that you’re sending out to be published, and in many other important things that you write.

In some cases you can also find grammar errors in your piece. Not because you don’t know grammar, but because you’ve gone asleep. Or maybe you were awake but your brain dozed off.

How can you prevent this?

It’s not so easy, because our brain has an inbuilt feature that tells it to use shortcuts. So when you’ve seen a text already, you don’t read it as carefully as the first time you saw it. This only gets worse when you yourself are the creator of the text.

So what we need to do is: Check, and check again.

Here are the best tips that I could think of to prevent spelling and grammar errors in your writing:

Don’t Send Things Immediately

The best time to send something is the next day.

Once you’ve written something, your brain gets used to seeing your text in a certain way and even when words are written incorrectly, your brain will often insist on seeing the correct word. It’s all in the mind.

After you’ve had a rest, especially after you’ve slept, your brain will see the text as if it’s new, without bias (= without any preconceived ideas).

Proofread Back from the End

After you think you have the final version on paper (that is, on screen), read your text starting at the end and then back to the beginning. Your piece will not make sense to you, but you will be able to concentrate exclusively on the correct spelling of each word.

Read or Scan Diagonally

This is a variation on the back-to-the-beginning trick. Take a paragraph and scan it from the left top to the right bottom. Then do the same from the right top to the left bottom. Then start down and go up, and start down in the other corner and go up to the opposite corner. I do this a lot and it works. You can’t understand the meaning of the paragraph when you scan like this and that is exactly the idea, because now you’ll see spelling mistakes much sooner.


Change the Font

Another tip for more effective proofreading. Change the font of your text. Make the letters super large or super small. The words will jump to a different position on your screen. Your brain will be tricked into thinking it’s seeing a new text. As a result you will suddenly see a couple of funny mistakes jump out at you.

This trick is especially good for spotting when you’ve written a word twice. This has happened to me quite frequently, for example that I wrote the word “and” twice (I type very fast and don’t think too deeply). When the two ands are next to each other in the middle of a line, your eyes will easily pass them over. But when one line ends in “and” and the next line starts with “and” again, for sure you won’t miss it.

Print Your Article

Any trick that fools your brain into thinking it’s seeing a new text can work to spot mistakes, so printing your text can help too. Having the paper in your hands can give you a new perspective. Because I’d rather save paper I don’t do this myself, but I have a student who uses this method before he publishes.

proofread2Henry O

Read Your Piece Out Loud or to Someone Else

When you’re saying the words, you spend more time looking at a word, so your chances to spot a mistake go up.

Spot the Squiggles

Before you hit publish, have one more quick scan for green and red squiggly (wavy) lines under words. That is, if you’re using Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Or use any other kind of inbuilt spell-checker that comes with the software you use. There is also spell check in spreadsheet programs, in case you were wondering.

Too Lazy to Read Once More Again? Listen Instead

Put your text through Google Translate or another Text to Speech app, lie on your back and just listen. Can’t understand what the voice is saying? For sure it means you’ve made a blooper somewhere.

Use Grammarly or Hemingway

Run your piece through one or both of these great correction apps (free). They check your spelling as well as grammar, and suggest useful changes to make your text clearer and easier to understand.

Ask Your Friend to Read it

In exchange you could read your friend’s stuff. Always thank them for this. Buy them a small present when they finish or at least write them a thank you note. You can also ask them if they want their name mentioned (when it’s a longer piece that is going to be published under your name).

Hire a Proofreader on Fiverr

On Fiverr you can have someone proofread your document for $5. Can’t get any cheaper than that! There are thousands of active proofreaders. However, it may be more difficult to find a competent person if you need some specialization, such as research, academic writing or creative writing. In that case, and if you have a budget for this, you could also look for professionals on freelance sites, such as Freelancer.

I hope there weren’t any mistakes in this article. Just to be sure, I’m going to read it one more time starting at the end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s