Proofreading Tips for Writers


If you have written anything before, whether essays, reports, fiction, articles, or any other form of writing, you will most likely have discovered the difficulties that come with proofreading your own work. Even if you have an impeccable knowledge of the English language, there is one pitfall that is almost impossible to avoid:

Our brain tricks us into seeing what should be there instead of what is there.

No matter how often we re-read our own writing, or how much distance (time) we place between ourselves and our work, sneaky, simple mistakes will almost always slip through the cracks. As an example, I wrote a short story where a character “threw her bag and keys on the table”. Or, that is what it was supposed to say. Despite multiple readings over a period of two months, I never picked up that it actually said “threw her back and keys on the table”, until someone else pointed the mistake out to me.

These sorts of errors slip easily past spelling and grammar checkers, and often only a fresh pair of eyes will find them. It is also small errors like this that can drag a reader out of the flow of the story, lessen the impact of your writing, and affect your professional image if you write for a living.

There are, however, a few tips and tricks that can help you pick up on as many of these pesky little mistakes as possible:

  • Take as much time as possible between writing and proofreading your writing, so your work has become less familiar
  • Read very slowly, or read out loud (or both)
  • Re-read the work several times, focusing on a particular issue on each pass (punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Print out your work to proofread it
  • Change the typeface, colour, size, and/or background to trick your brain into thinking you’re reading something new
  • Take breaks, be well rested and as alert as possible

While all of these techniques can be useful, nothing really beats getting another person to proofread your work, if at all possible. Just to be safe.


Helpful Links for Proofreading Your Own Work: 

Get Your Eagle Eye On: 10 Tips for Proofreading Your Own Work by Leah McClellan:

21 Proofreading and Editing Tips for Writers by Melissa Donovan:


6 thoughts on “Proofreading Tips for Writers

  1. All very good advice, exactly the tips I give to students at the university where I teach.

    I’ll add one more, and it seems crazy. Read it backwards. That can be done sentence by sentence or, at least, paragraph by paragraph. (It can also be done word by word, but I suspect few people will bother with that.) This really upsets the “flow” of the piece, and getting swept up in that flow makes it easy to float right be dumb mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: How to Write a Guest Post: 10 Important Points - Dragon Blogger Technology

  3. Great stuff. One thing that has helped me is copying my story into software such as Natural Reader (free!) and listening to someone else read it. Wow, does that point out things you would have never noticed before.


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