Daily Tips & Tricks for Web Enthusiasts

Powerfully Potent Proofreading

You should always find someone else to proofread your writing if you can, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Not to worry! When you’re on your own there’s one easy thing you can do to boost the effectiveness of proofreading your own work: change contexts.

During the act of writing and editing you can easily get too familiar with your surroundings. You stop noticing the room you’re in. You stop paying attention to the text editor you’re using. You stop noticing details. The individual letters and words you’ve written merge together into an abstract blob that represents the concepts you’re writing about. That’s your brain doing its job; it’s designed to take intricate details and abstract them away into simple concepts. This is quite useful for day-to-day life, but it’s murder when you’re trying to edit or proofread.

The good news is that you can get your brain to truly notice your words again simply by changing the context. This technique works best if you can change both the context of your work and your own context.

To change the context of your work try printing what you’ve written and edit it with a pen. No printer? No problem: Print to a PDF, or copy and paste your text into an entirely different app with a different typeface and text size. The idea here is to move your words around and get them to both look and feel as different as possible so your brain notices them again.

As a concrete example, I write these tips in the WordPress dashboard, but I preview them on the site when I proof them. Everything about how the words are displayed is different when I do this, which helps me catch a lot of things I would have missed otherwise.

Another great way to change the context of what you’ve written is to read it aloud. This may not be possible if you’re in a quiet environment, but even whispering it to yourself is better than nothing.

To change your own context simply go into another room to edit and proofread. Maybe it’s your living room, a conference room, the break room, a coffee shop… as long as it’s different enough to jar your brain out of complacency you’ll be able to proofread more effectively.