These can be useful tools but they are far
from foolproof. Spell checkers have a limited dictionary, so
some words that show up as misspelled may just not be in
their memory. In addition, spell checkers will not catch
misspellings that form another valid word. For example, if
you type "your" instead of "you're," "to" instead of "too,"
or "there" instead of "their," the spell checker won't catch
- Don't rely entirely on spelling checkers.
- Grammar checkers can be even more problematic. These programs work with a limited number
of rules, so they can't identify every error and often make
mistakes. They also fail to give thorough explanations to
help you understand why a sentence should be revised. You
may want to use a grammar checker to help you identify
potential run-on sentences or too frequent use of the
passive voice, but you need to be able to evaluate the
feedback it provides.
- Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many
things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading
will be less effective. It's easier to catch grammar errors
if you aren't checking punctuation and spelling at the same
time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for
spotting one kind of mistake won't catch others.
- Read slow, and read every word.
Try reading out loud, which forces you to say each word and
also lets you hear how the words sound together. When you
read silently or too quickly you may skip over errors or
make unconscious corrections.
- Separate the text into individual sentences. This is another technique to help you to read
every sentence carefully. Simply press the return key after
every period so that every line begins a new sentence. Then
read each sentence separately, looking for grammar,
punctuation, or spelling errors. If you're working with a
printed copy, try using an opaque object like a ruler or a
piece of paper to isolate the line you're working on.
- Circle every punctuation mark.
This forces you to look at each one. As you circle, ask
yourself if the punctuation is correct.
- Read the paper backwards. This
technique is helpful for checking spelling. Start with the
last word on the last page and work your way back to the
beginning, reading each word separately. Because content,
punctuation, and grammar won't make any sense, your focus
will be entirely on the spelling of each word. You can also
read backwards sentence by sentence to check grammar; this
will help you avoid becoming distracted by content
- Proofreading is a learning process. You're not just looking for errors that you
recognize; you're also learning to recognize and correct new
errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in.
Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you
- Ignorance may be bliss, but it won't make you a better
proofreader. You'll often find things
that don't seem quite right to you, but you're not quite
sure what's wrong either. A word looks like it might be
misspelled, but the spell checker didn't catch it. You think
you need a comma between two words, but you're not sure why.
Should you use "that" instead of "which"? If you're not sure
about something, look it up.
- The proofreading process becomes more efficient as you
develop and practice a systematic strategy. You'll learn to identify the specific areas of
your own writing that need careful attention, and knowing
that you have a sound method for finding errors will help
you to focus more on developing your ideas while drafting
A proof copy is a version of a manuscript
that has been typeset after copyediting. Proof typescripts
often contain typographical errors introduced by mistyping
(hence the word typo to refer to misplaced or incorrect
characters). Traditionally, a proofreader checks the typeset
copy and marks any errors using standard proof correction
marks (such as those specified in style manuals, by house
style, or, more broadly, by the international standard ISO
5776, or, for English, the British Standard
BS-5261:2). This process can be known as a line
edit. The proof is then returned to the typesetter for
correction, and in many cases the production of a second proof
copy (often known as a revise). Proofreading is
considered a specific skill that must be learned because it is
the nature of the mind to automatically correct errors.
Someone not trained in proofreading may not see errors such as
missing words or improper usage because their mind is showing
them what it is trained to recognize as correct. DP
The term proofreading is sometimes
used incorrectly to refer to copy-editing. This is a separate
activity, although there is some overlap between the two.
Proofreading consists of reviewing any text, either hard copy
(on paper) or electronic copy (on a computer) and checking for
typos and formatting errors. This may be done either against
an original document or "blind" (without checking against any
other source). Many modern proofreaders are also required to
take on some light copy-editing duties, such as checking for
grammar and consistency