I Enjoy Reading Your Essay Backwards

8 Proofreading Tips And Techniques

By Sharon

Whether you are writing a magazine article, a college essay or an email to a client, getting your text free of mistakes is essential. The spell checker helps, but it is far from foolproof. That is where proofreading comes in. Below you will find 8 tips and techniques to make your proofreading sessions more effective.

1. Concentration is Key

If you’re going to spot mistakes, then you need to concentrate. That means getting rid of distractions and potential interruptions. Switch off the cell phone, turn off the television or radio and stay away from the email.

2. Put It On Paper

People read differently on screen and on paper, so print out a copy of your writing. If you read aloud, your ear might catch errors that your eye may have missed.

3. Watch Out for Homonyms

Homonyms are words that share the same spelling or pronunciation, but have different meanings. Switching accept with except or complement with compliment could be disastrous, so pay attention to them.

4. Watch Out for Contractions and Apostrophes

People often mix their and they’re, its and it’s, your and you’re and so on. If there is something that can hurt the credibility of your text, it is a similar mistake. Also, remember that the apostrophe is never used to form plurals.

5. Check the Punctuation

Focusing on the words is good, but do not neglect the punctuation. Pay attention to capitalized words, missing or extra commas, periods used incorrectly and so on.

6. Read it Backwards

When writing we usually become blind to our own mistakes since the brain automatically “corrects” wrong words inside sentences. In order to break this pattern you can read the text backwards, word by word.

7. Check the Numbers

Stating that the value of an acquisition was $10,000 instead of $100,000 is definitely not the same thing. What about the population of China, is it 1,2 million or 1,2 billion? Make sure your numbers are correct.

8. Get Someone Else to Proofread It

After checking all the previous points, do not forget to get a friend to proofread it for you. You will be amazed at the mistakes you’ve missed. A second person will also be in a better position to evaluate whether the sentences make sense or not.

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46 Responses to “8 Proofreading Tips And Techniques”

  • Amy Laird

    Good Stuff Jayne! Thanks for the reminder on proofing best practices. It matters how we present ourselves.


  • Miriam Michalski

    I was taught to proofread by skipping from the right side of the page to the left side of the page, which I suppose is similar to reading backwards. You really do notice mistakes you wouldn’t catch otherwise. My proofreading tip is: I also find that Spellcheck not only does not catch everything (if “their” is a correct word in general, it does NOT catch it if used incorrectly in a sentence when it should have been “there” or “they’re”). In addition, it is sometimes altogether wrong. I have caught it many a time, telling me to change some subject-verb agreement to the wrong combination. Beware Spellcheck, it can cause more harm than good!

  • T Mo

    One thing I cannot do is give my CV to anyone else to look at, let alone read it to them or have them read it back it to me. To do this I would have to subconsciously edit it to avoid generating any unwanted reaction or judgment on their part. In that way my CV would be less suited for its real purpose: attracting a potential employer.

  • Mark Roth

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/10-rules-for-writing-numbers-and-numerals/ — See Rule 2 and Rule 5. 😉

    Thanks for these eight tips and techniques!

    Number 8 looks…ah…challenging. 😀

  • Eglon

    Some of the things we know they can be forgoten, but revising them is the best technic to recall whatever you know.

  • rakesh

    Its very useful to me…..

    Thanks to all of you, I now have several ways to proofread and find mistakes that I may have missed.

  • Harnam Singh

    A treasure of information on mistakes in various types of writing.
    Now I feel I am not alone in the world who makes such mistakes.
    Most of the mistakes occur while typing – small 2 stroke or 3 stroke words are missed out – becuase the minding is thinking in advance on ideas to be put in writing. Though I have been working in English language for the last 28+ years, still some mistake do creep in. I made some silly mistakes in some of my Resumes which were never responded. Many a times when I happen to read my own correspondence/notings/writing, after time lapse I find some typo.

    The best solution is that somebody else should do proof reading.

    Second best thing is leave the writing aside for some time and read it with a fresh minding so that you don’t “read” what is in your mind but what is actually written.

    Third solution is to have a print of the matter and run a sharpened pointed pencil on the words as you read. This surely brings out the missing words.

    Thanking for giving valuable advice on the subject. My techniques will also surely help others.

  • Vishal Srivastava

    A wonderful article. I always wanted to write and recently started my blog to follow my writing passion but what i generally do is, i type my article, click the post button and my articles are reached between users in this digital world. After reading this article i decided to proof read my all articles and you know i got about 30 mistakes in each article and the mostly are the type 4 you mentioned i.e. Apostrophe and contraction. Thanks a lot your blog is simply the best and will surely help me in long run of writing .

  • Alexia

    I subscribed for a grammar e-book within 24 hours but all I got after several weeks was lots of emails in my box.

  • Mark

    Now Microsoft Anna on Window 7 and Vista can read text out loud, her voice is clear and natural, she can be your proofreader. All your need is install a text to speech ( TTS ) software program on your desktop or laptop. There are free TTTS programs. For Linux user, Festival is a free TTS program. For Windows user, Panopreter Basic is one of the best free TTS tool.

  • miranda kennedy

    It’s 1.2 not 1,2 billion in the Check the Numbers paragraph. Guess, they needed a proof reader too.

  • Donald Smith

    Writing has never been my best subject, but I do proofread
    everything that I write.

    Thanks to all of you, I now have several ways to proofread and find mistakes that I may have missed.

  • dudette

    HAHAHAHA LOL! jk jk, you’re totally right! I completely agree and i use those techniques all the time, though i didn’t need to read the blog to figure them out.

  • Sara

    I love posts like these – mostly for the comments. We all go about proofreading with our own unique twists. Great inspiration.

    I use the tried and true method: read it out loud.

  • Jonathan

    I’m just getting started. I’ve decided that I’m going to be a proofreader. I’ve always been good at English in school. I was the guy who always won the spelling bees, much to the dismay of the girls. I have ordered the book,”Proofreading for Dummies”. I am thinking of taking a proofreading online course. I’m brushing up on my english and grammar. I need practical input from proofreaders about the best way to advance. I want to be an excellent proofreader-no, I will be an excellent proofreader. Well, proofs-how do I proceed?

  • Pro-Vamsi

    Great tips mate!!
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!!


Thesis Statements: Working Backwards

This method works for students who think through writing and find their argument by first diving in and writing their essay. Most students who use this method finally articulate their thesis at the end their essay, having reached what feels like a conclusion. Don’t make this rookie mistake! When you have found your argument, which usually comes together in your last paragraph, often in the last sentence or two, you can now a) congratulate yourself for making it through the hardest part, figuring out your idea, and b) go back and make the entire essay work with your newly articulated gem of a thesis.


To do this:

  • First, write the essay.
  • Reread your essay and underline what you think is your thesis statement. For students who dive in and think through writing, it usually appears at or near the very end of the essay. You will know it because it feels like an ah-ha moment and makes coherent sense out of all of the material you have presented.
  • Take this thesis and go back to your introduction. Place the thesis statement at the end of the introduction (usually the bottom of the first paragraph) and then reread your entire paragraph. Does it make sense with this new thesis? It might, but usually you will have to re-write some or most of your introduction in order to lead up to your great idea. Often, students begin their introductions with generalizations in order to gently lead the reader into their essay. Do you do this? If so, try again, only, this time be bold and specific in an attempt to snag your reader’s attention. You might try cutting and pasting the entire last paragraph of your essay to the beginning—perhaps you will get lucky and it will work as an introduction.
  • The next step is called a reverse outline. Do not skip this step—it is quick and will make sure your essay is organized to present your argument in a logical fashion. To make a reverse outline:
    • Read over your essay and write down a phrase that captures what each separate paragraph discusses, one line per paragraph. It should look like a list.
    • Then consider how your newly articulated thesis relates to each and every paragraph. Often this is really the place you need to spend time editing, for you may have to rewrite the material in each paragraph somewhat. For example, you may need to discuss the quotations you use a bit differently, so that they more clearly support your idea. Or you may need to find new quotations that do a better job of buttressing your argument. You may also need to move the paragraphs around, to reorganize them so that they create a clearer narrative logic. Your reverse outline should help you better see the order you present your material.
    • Wait, you are almost done! Now just check that all of your topic sentences, or the sentences that begin every paragraph, also take into account your new thesis. They should act like signposts for your reader, pointing in a direction, and should suggest or relate to the way you are spinning your thesis.
    • Chances are, you need a new conclusion so it doesn’t feel like you lead the reader off a cliff. Good conclusions reiterate without repeating, while simultaneously pointing to a new direction or larger meaning. Once you have done this, make sure to spell-check and read what you have written slowly and out loud to yourself to hear any mistakes.



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