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5 Simple Proofreading Techniques to Improve Your Document

In this blog we look at a couple of proofreading techniques that can help you remove errors in your work. The good thing is that these tips work! Let’s say English is not your first language, how do you pick up errors your have made?

There really are just two simple problems that you need to tackle. These are:

  • Reading what you think is there and
  • being unaware of English grammar errors you keep making.

Let’s attack the problems.

Proofreading techniques

TIP 1: Read your work backwards 

Take a paragraph of your work and read it backwards – word by word. This creates what is know as “cognitive dissonance” and helps you to pick up on mistakes in your writing.

TIP 2: Remove ‘that’’

An easy way to upgrade your writing, use “control+F” and find all instances of the word “that”. This word is not needed half as much as you would think, a sentence like “The results show that the world is round” can be changed to “The results show the world is round”. This makes your writing less passive and more active and it reads that bit better.

TIP 3: Read your document out loud
When we read something out loud we use a different part of the brain than when we are writing. When you read something that you have written your brain skips over errors as in your mind you see what you want to have written and not what is actually there. It sounds confusing but it is actually pretty easy! If you don’t like reading aloud get a machine to do it. Microsoft Word has a built-in feature that reads your document. Moving from the reading mode to the speaking mode help you to create the distance you need to be able to pick up errors.

TIP 4: Leave it for a few days

Read other things, books, magazines and newspapers. Leave your document aside and don’t look at it for a few days. Get used to reading correct English. Then after leaving it alone for a couple of days come back to it and read it aloud, then read it on paper. This will give your brain time to distance itself from the work and make it less likely that you will read what you think is there. Immersing yourself in written English for a few days will also improve your awareness of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

TIP 5: Remove the passive voice

You may not be aware of it but the active voice makes your document read that bit better. Take this sentence as an example: “The man was bitten by a dog and in order to get home he procured the help of a taxi driver”. There don’t seem to be any obvious errors. But it is cumbersome and can be improved. Consider this: “The dog bit the man. In order for him to get home a taxi driver helped him.”

The trick is to look for sentences with “was VERB by” which indicates the passive voice. Once identified these constructions can be easily rectified.

It is also worth running the free Grammaly check – although it is not 100% correct all the time. See our review of Grammarly to learn more about how the tool can be useful.

So, we hope these tips have helped you. Proofreading your own work not helping you? Then you why not contact us for a proofreading quote?

Find out more about our proofreading and editing services: https://londonproofreaders.co.uk

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