I have a confession to make: I do not like proofreading. It takes time, it’s not especially fun, and I still seem to miss some errors. To quote Billy Joel, it would be nice if I could “Get it Right the First Time.”
But that’s wishful thinking on my part. There may not be any Billy Joel songs about proofreading—but that doesn’t mean it’s not essential. No one wants to read sloppy work.
Fortunately, we can make it easier on ourselves with a few tricks. Here are a few I like:
Read It Aloud to Yourself
Yes, our teachers were right. Reading work aloud forces us to pay closer attention to the words. If you stumble over a sentence, you’ll need to smooth it out. Or, try reading aloud to someone else. They’ll give you tips on the sentences that stick out.
This trick is especially effective with dialogue. You’ll notice details while listening that you won’t notice while reading. For example, I tend to append characters’ dialogue with the phrase “or something.” It’s sort of like my trademark, or something.
I’m not sure why, but my first-draft brain seems to think “or something” makes dialogue come alive. It doesn’t. I read my work aloud to catch them on the second go-around.
Use Your Computer’s Voice Command
Sometimes it helps to have your own work read back to you. This allows you to listen for any weirdness you might’ve missed while reading. However, you won’t always have a human reader handy. In that case, you can use your computer’s voice command.
I do this one all the time. I’m not sure how it would work on a Windows or Linux computer, but on a Mac, you set a keystroke command, then highlight the text you want to hear. Hit your command keys and a pleasant robot voice will read the words to you.
Be warned: this voice is emotionless. Think Ferris Buehler’s professor. It’s about listening for mistakes, not getting a sense of rhythm. (Unless a boring computer voice narrates your story. In which case, please feel free to exclusively use this method.)
Use Online Tools
Hemingway Rewritten is a pretty killer app for this proofreading. It gives you suggestions on how to make your writing more concise.
When you copy and paste a paragraph into Hemingway, the program highlights overlong and strangely-structured sentences (like this one). It also catches passive voice. Plus, Hemingway is totally free. I think we can all appreciate that.
Bonus Tip: Let Commentors Proofread for You
The internet loves finding flaws in everything. Therefore, if you make a mistake, you can be sure someone will notify you in the comments.
Boom. Free proofreading!
Proofreading is like eating vegetables—it’s not especially fun, but it’s essential for growth. I hope these tips have been helpful (and more palatable than brussel sprouts).
Now please excuse me. I have to proofread this thing.